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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Open Meetings Violations

I've been harping off and on over the past year or two about the way the Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature have tried to operate with a minimum of input from the public, despite Wisconsin's tradition of open government and relatively progressive laws like our open meetings and open records laws. (And, just to be fair, I'm not completely confident that the current Democratic leadership would necessarily be better, though I like and respect Judy Robson quite a bit.)

So I read with interest this article about the state senate's violating the open meetings law in the case of the dismissal of a couple of state IT workers back in 2003. But the violations in this case were not the really disturbing part. This was the really disturbing part:
The decision opens questions about the operations of the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization, which conducts almost all of its business with paper ballots given to members rather than at formal meetings. Prior notice is almost never given to the public about those votes.

Dane County Judge Richard G. Niess said that practice had the effect of "rendering the work of government all but invisible."

The joint committee is not the only legislative body to operate that way. Senate committees often vote on bills after holding hearings using paper ballots--without public notice--instead of in meetings that are publicly announced. [. . .]

Niess ruled that the committee's balloting violated the open meetings law because it did not give prior notice. Over three years, the committee held only one meeting that was publicly noticed, the judge noted.
What is it about politicians that makes them think that they can do the people's business without the people? Time for a change, methinks.

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