Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Two Tales of Open Government

All eyes have been on the state of Wisconsin for the past few weeks as the state legislature pushed through a law restricting collective bargaining rights for public workers. On March 18th a County Court Judge issued an order preventing the Secretary of State from publishing the law because of a . . . open meetings violation. In the Judge's words:

“I think a legitimate question might be asked, how can something so apparently minor – the failure to provide timely notice prior to a meeting that led to the enactment of the 2011 Wisconsin 10 - how can a minor failure of notice really halt this bill in its tracks?

And my answer to that is - it’s not minor. It’s not a minor detail. . . [W]e in Wisconsin own our government. We own it. And we own it in three ways. We own it by the vote. We own it by the duty to provide open and public access to records so that the activities of government can be monitored. And we own it in that we are entitled by law to free and open access to governmental meetings, and especially governmental meetings that lead to the resolution of very highly conflicted and controversial matters.

That’s our right. And a violation of that right is tantamount to a violation of what is already provided in the Constitution, open doors, open access, and that northing in this government happens in secret.”

Meanwhile, on March 29th, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued an opinion in a case involving the Central Falls receivership law. That law was introduced on June 8th, 2010 for the very first time, and signed into law three days later by the Governor on June 11th. Regardless of what you think about the substance of either issue, it's quite a stark contrast.