The News From Maryland is Mixed…

Maryland statehouse

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A note from access advocate J.H. Snider in Maryland:

Open government legislation during the current session of the Maryland General Assembly includes a variety of bills in addition to HB37/SB740.  Below I briefly discuss the bills modifying the Open Meetings Act and creating a Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government.

The Maryland Senate’s Committee on Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs is holding a hearing tomorrow at 1 pm on HB48 , which modifies Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.  The language in HB48 sounds innocuous.  Nevertheless, I argued in my February 17, 2011 written testimony in the House that it should be strongly opposed because it is hostile to those who bring open meeting complaints to the Open Meetings Compliance Board while doing nothing to fix the very serious problems with the current Open Meetings Act and especially its lack of enforcement by the Open Meetings Compliance Board.

I’d also like to focus your attention on SB644/HB766, which seeks to create a Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government.  I applaud the creation of such a committee as long as it is not used as a vehicle to merely postpone open government legislation.   To be sure that the members of such a committee are serious about enhancing open government, I recommend that the statute creating the committee include language requiring that the committee operate transparently (e.g., webcast its meetings).  President Obama’s open government team led by Beth Noveck operated on such a principle when it was proposing open government reforms.  I think that is an excellent principle, so in my March 15 testimony on the bill  I suggested a number of ways it could be implemented.  The bill has already had hearings in both the House and Senate, but there have been no votes.

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