Other Views: Heed public's will on ban; continuing fight for open government in S.D.Heed public’s will on ban Today’s a great day for South Dakota. Because the state’s smoking ban extends to almost all remaining indoor businesses, employees in bars, restaurants and casinos will be able to breathe fresh air.
Heed public’s will on ban
Today’s a great day for South Dakota.
Because the state’s smoking ban extends to almost all remaining indoor businesses, employees in bars, restaurants and casinos will be able to breathe fresh air.
Those businesses previously had been exempted from the smoking ban, leaving their workers — and many customers as well — repeatedly exposed to secondhand smoke in the process.
But as of today, the state’s smoking ban now exempts only tobacco shops, hotel rooms designated as smoking rooms and existing cigar bars.
Though most South Dakotans long have overwhelmingly supported the ban’s extension, there still are those bar, restaurant and casino owners who might be tempted to turn a blind eye to the expanded law.
That’s even more tempting given that the punishment for the crime is a $25 fine.
But it would be shortsighted — and legally wrong — if those businesses owners opt for that route.
Though it’s taken a lot of effort to get the ban extended, part of the beauty of that process is that the public got to decide on the law. And the public has decided — 64 percent to 36 percent. No smoking in public places.
Although, certain businesses will need to make changes in their establishments in order to adhere to the new law, there’s no legitimate reason for failing to try.
Today’s the day that effort needs to begin.
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Continuing fight for open government in S. Dakota
When the 2011 South Dakota Legislature convenes in January, some of the state’s strongest advocates for open government won’t be there. Democrat Sen. Nancy Turbak Berry of Watertown, who some call the true mother of South Dakota’s modern open records law, lost her bid for re-election. Republican Sen. Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls was term-limited and lost his bid for his party’s nomination for governor. And House Majority Leader Rep. Bob Faehn opted to not run for re-election because of his new ownership stake in KXLG, where FCC rules are quite specific regarding elected officials. Knudson’s and Faehn’s willingness to embrace Turbak Berry’sconcept of a presumption of openness helped lead the effort to pass a new state law that requires public availability of meeting minutes.
Knudson, with help from Faehn, also led the way on 2010 reforms such as requiring the availability of meeting packets. All of the information in those packets are now public records, with the exception of information specifically protected by law for reasons of litigation, personnel and business secrets.
Fortunately, there are others (we hope) willing to continue the work of Turbak Berry, Knudson and Faehn to bring more transparency to state government. Rep.-elect Scott Munsterman of Brookings has a record of open government at the local level while veteran state Sen. Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, who’s been in a months-long battle to see financial records of the James River Water Development District, will also be working to make sure the public has access to what it needs at all levels of state and local government.
Why are the efforts of these lawmakers so important? The people we choose to lead us at all levels of government are working for us. As a result we have a right to know what they are doing, when they are doing it and why. Making access to the information contained in meeting packets is one way to do that. Say, for example, a city council is going to vote on a major street project going through your neighborhood. If you don’t know about that item before the meeting, how can you comment on it and say how it will impact you and your neighbors? Learning about it after the fact and after the project has been approved doesn’t do the people in that neighborhood any good.
Openness in government is important because it helps inform the public about what our elected and appointed leaders are doing in their name. That’s why it’s important to have people in Pierre to make sure that access is provided under state law for those who want information on what their government officials are doing.
Watertown Public Opinion