A Google News search reveals that one issue on the top of newspaper reporter’s topic list is the strength and weaknesses of public records and open meetings laws.
Last week, I wrote about The Post-Bulletin in Minnesota which reported on an illegal closed meeting of the Pine Island City Council.
A search for “public records open meetings” yields several headlines relating to the strength of state sunshine laws. Included is another story about a paper noticing the flaws in state transparency. Phil Lewis, Executive Editor of the Daily News, sees Florida’s state sunshine laws as lacking in four areas. Lewis believes that Florida’s laws could strengthen the right to speak in open meetings, enforcing the laws, the price of public records and online access to public records.
The top three results for public records and open meetings news stories regard a new bill in North Carolina. State Sen. Thom Goolsby filed a bill Thursday that would criminalize violations of the open meetings and public records laws. As written, neither the public records nor open meetings laws has a criminal penalty. He hopes penalties encourage government transparency. Goolsby is also working on a bill to increase access to personnel issue deliberations.
After these three stories, the next result is from the Youngstown Vindicator with “Weakening of public records, open meetings law is alarming.” The editorial is a two-pronged attack on the institutions weakening the Ohio Public Records Law: the state legislature and the state supreme court. “The string between tax money and the public should not be severed simply because the money is funneled to a ‘private’ entity. Members of the public still have an interest in how decisions are made about the spending of their money.”
On a positive note, Nevada Assembly committee takes on bills enhancing public records and open meeting laws. The bills would make the public records law more clear by listing out exemptions, and they would require state entities to appoint public records liaisons.
Other public records stories on the top of Google’s News search results show exactly why the strength of public records and open meetings laws matter. In Oklahoma, officials deny a public records violation, while in Georgia local officials admit to an open meetings violation.