ZACHARY: People should mind their own business

From Jim Zachary’s weekly DomeLight Column published in the Valdosta Daily Times: 

 

Everyone running for office tells voters they will be open and transparent.

Why then do state lawmakers assault the public’s right to know year after year?

The 2019 Georgia legislative session is in the books.

Largely, the state’s open government laws came out unscathed.

That is not from a lack of trying, however.

Each year, it seems, legislators push various measures during the session that pose a threat to transparency.

Not the least among those this year was a bill that would have allowed state lawmakers to conceal certain contributions from influencers at the beginning of the legislative session.

The public has every right and every need to know where, how and when the people they elect to office get contributions.

It is good for the people of Georgia that the proposal stalled and will not become law, at least not this year.

Still, it begs the question: why would such a measure even be considered?

Another bill that got a serious look this year was an attempt to require mutual consent for tape recording conversations, which could have compromised the ability of a person to be a whistleblower against corruption and hamper investigative reporting.

The only lawmakers who should be concerned about being recorded are those who are up to no good.

How can a climate exist in the Georgia General Assembly where any lawmaker thinks that less openness is a good idea?

There is nothing partisan about government transparency.

An open government benefits everyone.

Clandestine government benefits no one, except those with something to hide.

Ironically, it always seems to be the case that the party in the minority complains about the need for more transparency, while those in control of one or both chambers more readily conceal the people’s business.

The men and women we elect to serve us in the state legislature should take their campaign promises more seriously.

Don’t go out on the stump and tell voters how open and transparent you intend to be and then vote in favor of a more opaque state and local government once you get under the Gold Dome.

All the business that government does — whether at the federal, state or local level — is the people’s business.

The people of Georgia have every right to mind their own business.

 

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is CNHI’s regional editor for its Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas newspapers, editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and vice-president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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