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Friday, February 6, 2009

Status Quo Not Good Enough, Russ: Support SB 147 and Open Records

I meant to give some love to the Black Hills Monitor, which gave friendly coverage last weekend to SB 147, the big open records bill Senate leaders Knudson and Heidepriem and House leaders Faehn and Hunhoff are promoting. Wow—look at all those Republicans and Democrats working together. SB 147 must be a good idea!

I was disappointed to see no District 8 legislators among the co-sponsors. As I look around for other pending open records legislation, I do find Senator Russell Olson (R-8/Lake Madison) among the sponsors of SB 143, which would require the governor to continue the OPEN SD public records website he started last year.

While I appreciate Senator Olson's support of this valuable online resource (where I can look up my profs' salaries... but not mine! hmmm...), I must note that this bill really doesn't do anything. Unless I missed something, Governor Rounds has not targeted Open.SD.Gov in his budget cuts.

Plus, if I wanted to be suspicious of Governor Rounds and his commitment to open records (now why on earth would I feel that way?) , I see language in this bill that might help him keep more records away from the public. SB 143 calls on the governor to "continue the OPEN SD website as existing on January 1, 2009." A governor interested in blocking further records access could interpret that line to mean no new information may be added to the website. Oops—might want to propose an amendment there!

When South Dakota has consistently ranked last in open government, the status quo is clearly not good enough. Russ, Gerry, Mitch, get on board with SB 147. Let's see some real openness in South Dakota government.

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