Sunlight Weekly Round-up: Double standards in transparency

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When lawmakers introduce legislation that is supposed to increase transparency, naturally we expect that they will lead in the everything transparent movement – including the proverbial practicing of what they preach. Unfortunately, we are starting to see cases of selective transparency where public officials are willing to be “open” about their activities only when it suits them. What is worth noting are the adverse effects to not being fully accountable. Considering that financial benefits of being transparent are hardly discussed, perhaps bearing in mind the costs in lawsuits for agencies (including states) that violate sunshine laws – can be an incentive for lawmakers to observe the rules they set up.

  • The New Mexico state Senate passed a rule that will prohibit the public from recording any of the public meetings conducted in the state capitol. Tracy Dingmann feels this is a violation of the First Amendment. Showing how transparency goes both ways, Dingmann asserts that just as Senate staffers are allowed to record public meetings, so should the public. Now she is reminding Gov. Susana Martinez to stick to her promise of “bringing the people to the process”. Read all about it on Clearly New Mexico.
  • A new bill sponsored by state Sen. Joyce Foster is putting ethics in the Colorado legislature under review. The HB 1220 bill is intended to accelerate funding of state transportation projects but ethics monitors are concerned that its major supporter, the Colorado Contractors Association, also hires the Senator’s son David Foster as their lobbyist. Political investigative writer Chuck Plunkett sees a possible conflict of interest and sets the conversation going on Look Out Colorado.
  • Health care providers, lobbyists, and residents of Minnesota have joined hands to bring more accountability to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). Paul Demko blogs that key among the proposals introduced is Rep. Larry Hosch’s bill that will boost transparency and financial stability in HMOs. See how HMO officials are claiming to welcome changes that increase accountability in their activities on Capitol Report .
  • Texas Governor David Dewhurst has created a new open government committee to review transparency-related issues in state government, public information and open records. The committee will also help improve accountability in the legislative process, but journalist Mike Ward has his doubts. He notes that while the governor’s move is a step in the right direction, there has been history of the Senate holding meetings behind closed doors and this does not look like it will end soon. Read more on Postcards.
  • The New Hampshire House is carrying out executive sessions immediately after general sessions without giving the public a right to know what is going on.  Referencing the “Hughes” case — where the legislature does not have to obey the Right-to-Know law — Lucy Weber writes that the Speaker of the House is not observing the same Sunshine law he introduced in the first place. Weber calls on residents of the Granite State to not sit back and take it. See details on Blue Hampshire Blog.
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