Taping Executive Sessions: A Fine Idea in Washington State

Now here is a problem in need of a solution, and a public official with a fine idea!

Did the new Olympia City Council begin the new year with an illegal council meeting?

Unfortunately, members of the public will never know the answer to that question because there is no audio or video record of what went on behind closed doors.

The council’s apparent misstep is an excellent example of why the state Legislature must adopt Attorney General Rob McKenna’s bill to allow government agencies to record their closed-door executive sessions. If there’s a question whether the city council or county commission or school board broke the law behind closed doors, there’s proof in the video or audio recording. A judge can review the recording in his or her chambers and determine whether an illegal meeting was conducted.

Pennsylvania Moves to Toughen Its Open Meetings Law

Sunshine of my life is you...

A bill to toughen Pennsylvania’s primary open meetings law for governments is on its way to the House after Senate passage.

The state Senate voted 48-to-2 on Tuesday to increase penalties for first-time intentional violations of the Sunshine Law to a fine of up to $1,000.

Second-time offenders could be hit with a $2,000 fine, and taxpayers can’t be made to pay the fines.

This is the third time the state Senate’s passed such a bill. The other two died of inaction in the House at the end of session.

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Federal Judge: Texas Open Meetings Act Does Not Violate First Amendment Rights of Officials!

I am completely digging transparency as a “compelling government interest”!

A federal judge upheld the constitutionality of the Texas Open Meetings Act on Friday in a long-running case originally filed by members of the Alpine City Council. Council members from 11 cities later joined the case, including Mel LeBlanc of Arlington.

U.S. District Judge Robert Junell, based in West Texas, wrote that the law doesn’t muzzle the First Amendment right to free speech, as plaintiffs asserted, but instead protects “the compelling interest of governmental transparency.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the named defendant, praised the ruling as a victory for democracy and the First Amendment.

In a Star-Telegram opinion column in December, LeBlanc explained why he joined the suit. The open meetings act, he wrote, “is a vague and confusing law, made more so by opinions handed down by attorneys general and appellate court rulings throughout its 43-year history. Confusion creates a milieu of silence and non-action, hesitation that stems from fear of reprisal, including jail time and fines, or of simply making a mistake.”

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/03/25/2950984/federal-judge-upholds-texas-open.html#ixzz1Hie5TluN

 

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