In March 2011, we noticed a disturbing trend spreading through the states: Open government legislation was being ignored, rolled back and overturned. Often, governors played a role, signing into law legislation stacked with anti-transparency measures or creating loopholes for themselves and their staff from public records laws and disclosure.
In July, we went to Utah to deliver an “Open Letter to Governors” to the National Governors Association, which you’ll find below. As part of our delivery, we stood with Utah activists who successfully got their governor to sign a repeal of an anti-transparency bill. (Check out the video recap!) Now we need you to stand with us.
These laws are in place to support greater government accountability. They need to be defended. We’ve seen that governors will respond to pressure from people demanding open government, and we’re asking you to take a moment to turn up the heat.
Public information will only stay public if we fight for it. Call now and tell your governor to stop the transparency rollbacks. Open government legislation is critical for government accountability.Call Now
On Twitter, Facebook, or Google+? Please share this message far and wide. Know more about transparency laws in your state? Blog about it. You can help make people aware of what’s going on in your backyard just by blogging. If you write, share the link with us here so we can help promote it!
Thousands of you added your name to this letter, asking your governors to defend open government legislation in their state. In the time since this letter was written, we’ve seen some progress on a few of the issues listed, but we’ve also seen more rollbacks in more states. For more updates on what governors are up to in the states, head here.
Across the country, we're seeing a disturbing trend of states rolling back transparency legislation and clouding the ability of the public to see what their elected officials are up to. Some examples:
In Utah, Governor Gary Herbert just signed HB477, a law rolling back the Senate disclosure bill, GRAMA, and severely limiting the ability of the public to access government records.
In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has decided that his business advisory committee would work better if open government laws didn't apply to it.
In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam thinks that it will be more comfortable to exempt himself from financial disclosure laws than it would be to publicly disclose his finances.
In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has implemented a policy that requires the public to pay for access to public documents.
And in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is taking his time backing up his public statements with public documents, and forced through a controversial piece of legislation in violation of Wisconsin's open meetings laws.
Transparency is not just a campaign promise. It’s fundamental to a healthy democracy. By getting rid of transparency laws when they’re inconvenient, governors show disregard and disrespect for an open, accessible and accountable government.
We laud those of you that are working to open your administrations. To the rest, we say, what do you have to hide?
Stop the rollback of transparency laws. Your citizens are watching, and trying to drive out the sunshine won’t stop that.