Flying Under the Radar
“Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.”
— Barack Obama, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, January 21, 2009
This sort of appreciation for the idea of open and transparent government has been one of the higher points of the new presidency. It’s a principle that we take seriously at the Show-Me Institute, as well. The actions taken by our government officials should be open to public scrutiny. Apparently, however, 81 legislators in Missouri’s House feel that the Sunshine Law should not apply to the state’s General Assembly, while only 79 do. That vote defeated an amendment that would have clarified the existing Sunshine Law.
I have a hard time understanding why it wouldn’t, given that the Sunshine Law applies to all other government officials in Missouri. Some speculate that the measure might have failed because legislators are concerned about the privacy of their constituents, but as this Maneater editorial notes (link via Combest), “Many agencies abide by the Sunshine Law and they still get plenty of calls from constituents.”
The laws surrounding this issue are murky themselves; legislators have different ways of interpreting the Sunshine Law with respect to lawmakers being individually exempted. The movement of House Bill 316 is a step in the right direction, but as this News-Leader editorial remarks, “What’s good for the goose may not be so good for the gander after all.”