Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Are California's Legislators Hiding?

One basic condition for being a true believer in representative democracy is government transparency; how can you trust your elected officials to do "the people's business" if you don't know how they spend their days or who they meet with? That's why people like Jerry Brown and many other politicians across California routinely make their meeting calendars available to the public. Unfortunately, the Legislature doesn't take the same view these days.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Senate and Assembly leaders have refused a request from the Bay Area News Group, Associated Press, and the First Amendment Coalition to open the meeting calendars of legislators and key staff to the public, citing an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy". While insisting on "legislative privilege" for secrecy, lawmakers also cited security concerns arising from the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. That's right; lawmakers need to shield their activities from the public to avert the very, very remote possibility of being attacked by a lunatic for no reason whatsoever. This dubious interpretation of the Legislative Open Records Act so outraged First Amendment Coalition director Peter Scheer that the Coalition is mulling a lawsuit over it. Given the obvious opportunity for graft and corruption that this secrecy presents, we're all for it.


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