Public Initiative to extend the Open Government Act (OGA) to apply to the Legislature. I don't have a link to the full text. If someone has that, please let me know.
This is the initiative spearheaded by Rep. Tina Sablan.
It changes the law as follows:
1. deletes the exception for the Legislature in the OGA
2. that means, the Legislature will have to prepare agendas, give notice 72hours in advance of sessions, allow public comment, and respond within 10 days to requests for public records;
3. there is an exception to the 72 hour notice requirement for emergencies, provided the reasons for calling the session emergency are stated in writing, 2/3 of the members agree it is an emergency, and there is an emergency agenda, etc. that eventually gets filed in the public record.
The pros are obvious--we get a more transparent government and greater ability to participate in our democracy.
There seem to be no cons in my opinion.
The OGA originally applied to the Legislature; there seems to be little reason it can't apply now.
The CEC brochure on the OGA initiative lists some cons that I'll address.
* The 72 hour notice would require new notice if discussion is continued over to another day. Really? I don't think so. I don't know of any legal opinion that supports this interpretation. In courts of law, when notice is required, if it's given and the matter is conintued, no new notice is generally required.
* If the Legislature mistakenly fails to give proper notice the act is null and void. Yes. This is not a con--this is good. We want all of our Legislators in on the process; we want the public to know about it. We want to stop secrecy and lies and quick deals behind closed doors that do not face public scrutiny.
* The 2/3rds rule may be hard to obtain in times of emergency. I think this could be true, but I also think that this rule is designed to prevent false "emergency" declarations--like we're seeing all the time from the executive branch. To me, this is not so much a "con" to the amendment as a reason to do some planning. I think the Legislature can and should prepare some contingency plans for dealing with emergencies, having participation by cell phone, etc.
* Requiring notice will decrease the likelihood that legislators will meet outside of committee members to discuss matters. This is pure B.S. The rule applies to official meetings--not informal discussions between legislators.
* The legislators and their assistants will have bigger workloads. Another piece of B.S. Paper or electronic notice is not significantly difficult; and the potential input from legislators who are prepared because they got notice, and from the public, means that we'll have a better chance to have good laws that won't need amending every few months.
For me, this is a really clear and very much needed amendment--This is a vote yes on the public initiative to extend the OGA to apply to the Legislature.