Today, the Kentucky House State Government Committee will (if it hasn’t already) be hearing HB 496 — a bill we talked about earlier, to deliberate on next steps. Guest blogger Logan Morford the Vice-President of Transparency at the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions is stressing how this attack on transparency will affect everyone.
Representative Johnny Bell is sponsoring a bill in the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly that would exclude private companies who take public funds from being subject to the Kentucky Open Records Act. The argument is that these private companies are being over-burdened with legal costs associated with records requests related to their activities with public money.
I am all for protecting the rights of private businesses but if a private business accepts taxpayer money they have to know that different rules apply. The path of public money has to be transparent because transparency is the first step in citizens holding government accountable.
This attack on transparency could have serious repercussions for citizens, journalists, and government watchdog groups that seek to root out fraud, waste, and abuse in government. With Kentucky’s current budget problems, the ability to scrutinize every single dollar spent must remain intact. This responsibility falls to citizens, journalists, and government watchdog groups using the Kentucky Open Records Act because proactive disclosure by the state or those using state money is not something that can be counted on. We’ve seen the power of sunshine laws in Kentucky as they have revealed:
- That Governor Steve Beshear promised Kentuckians he would do a comprehensive efficiency study to reduce waste in state government. That didn’t happen..
- Fraud and abuse in quasi-government agencies.
- State spending statistics that show how out of control Kentucky really is.
- The evaluation system for school district superintendents is broken and often rewards failure.
Sunshine laws are vitally important to accountability for taxpayer dollars. Any attempt to limit the ability of citizens to see how their money is spent should be put under a microscope and examined very carefully. The road toward transparency is hard enough without having to backpedal and re-fight battles that have already been won.