OUR VIEW: Openness package not perfect, but contains good billsThis editorial board has a representative on Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Open Government Task Force. Wednesday, that representative found himself on the losing end of a 23-1 vote at a task force meeting in Pierre.
This editorial board has a representative on Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Open Government Task Force.
Wednesday, that representative found himself on the losing end of a 23-1 vote at a task force meeting in Pierre.
The group was voting on 10 draft pieces of legislation. Drafts that won the task force’s majority endorsement will be forwarded to Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley, who will consider sending the bills to the Legislature to possibly become law.
The lopsided vote came on a proposal to exempt some quorum gatherings of township and other three-member public bodies from the state’s open-meetings law. A representative of the state’s townships said when two members of a board get together to oversee the placement of a culvert, for example, they could be in violation of the state’s open-meetings law. That law says when a quorum of a public body is present and official business is discussed, it’s a public meeting for which notice must be provided.
The legislation sounded well-intentioned, but endorsing it was a mistake. In our view, an open government task force has no business forwarding legislation that removes openness requirements.
That said, we’re pleased with the other draft pieces of legislation the task force endorsed. Those include bills that would:
n Make public certain documents used in a public official’s deliberative process;
n Repeal the open-records exemption for material that is “derogatory” toward license holders and applicants and job applicants, and narrow the exemption to anonymously submitted material;
* Clarify that committees, subcommittees, task forces and the like are public bodies if they are created by a public body or exercise sovereign power;
* Affirm the right of attendees of a public teleconference to not only listen but also view the contents of the meeting, such as in an Internet video conference.
* Make criminal booking mug shots public;
* Clarify what constitutes a police log and make it public;
* Repeal a section of law that seals pardons after five years;
* And require the holder of public databases to provide, when asked, a description of the record layout so that the public and media can determine what types of data the government is collecting and storing.
We were disappointed that a bill such as the township quorum matter even got a hearing. After all, the governor’s announcement of the group said its mission is to “ensure maximum public access,” not roll it back.
Nevertheless, we’re thankful to the governor for his interest in open government and grateful to the task force members from various sectors of public life who have taken the time to engage in a serious debate about the important issue of openness. And we hope the good pieces of legislation flowing from the task force will become law.