While our state government continues to swirl with controversy that is focused on sunshine law matters (Sen. Charlie Shields' crusade, Gov. Blunt's debacle regarding his emails, and the Ethics Commission flip-flop), I have found it breath-taking to hear all the discussion of these issues and all the calls for strengthening the law. It is clear the next legislative session will be quite interesting.
But at the same time there is high risk involved in any changes being made. Many of my favorite blogs (including Tony Messenger and Dan who's-last-name-is-confidential) are devoting space to this discussion, along with the regular political blogs at The Post-Dispatch and The Columbia Tribune , as well as Prime Buzz (which, thank you, Star, is free again!).
But a commentor to Tony's blog recently accused Tony of something that, while I disagree with his comment, is troubling. Changes in the law are necessary. Changes in the law that result in more openness to the public will be a benefit for the public. Taking action behind closed doors is a bad thing for the public. Destruction of public records is a travesty. Politicizing the selection process of our state's judiciary is not the way to maintain the balance which is constitutionally mandated between the legislative and judiciary branches of government. But making changes that are beneficial must be balanced with avoiding becoming a pawn for someone's political agenda.
Seeking changes in the law is not the same thing as playing politics, and the public must make sure that the changes which are made do not make any of us a "pawn" in anyone's agenda. Where are the citizens of this state when it comes time for testimony in the legislative committees about why changes are needed? Who else in the state, besides groups such as Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Broadcasters' Association, understands the need for open government and supports strengthening this law? We need the other groups in the state that support open government to raise their voices louder when these issues arise. Your legislators need to hear a deafening roar that open government is required in this state, whatever party is in control.
Speak up or forever hold your peace!
I promise, I'll get off my soapbox and back to the regular blog entries I write. I just felt, this once, this issue needed to be addressed.