Let the sun shine

Published 2:32 am Saturday, January 13, 2007

By Staff
Common Cause North Carolina and the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, among others, are calling for more openness in North Carolina government. That’s a good call. North Carolina’s legislators and other government officials should heed that call.
In the wake of recent scandals, disgraceful deeds and questionable ethics involving state legislators and government officials, it makes sense for Common Cause North Carolina and the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform to join forces and push for changes.
As bad as the environment has become, legislators have the power to change that environment. The question is: Do they have the will and courage to make that needed change? If they don’t, they should.
North Carolina residents should demand more openness in state government. They’re the ones paying for decisions made by legislators. They have the right to know details about what their elected representatives are doing, why they are doing it and what it’s costing taxpayers.
With the selection of Rep. Joe Hackney, a Democrat from Orange County, there’s good reason to believe some reform likely will take place in the halls and on the floors of the General Assembly’s two houses. In August 2005, Hackney was quoted in a Winston-Salem Journal article about legislation that would bring about lobbying reforms.
Therein is a good reason for more reforms in state government. There’s no doubt Rep. Jim Black’s problems in the past year or so have further eroded the public’s confidence in state government and in the General Assembly in particular. Anything the Legislature does to make government more open can only help to begin to restore the public’s confidence in state government.
From Hackney’s August 2005 statement and his reputation as a legislator, there’s evidence the new speaker will at least be open to entertaining reform efforts. There’s a good chance he will support some form of movement to bring about reform.
Common Cause North Carolina and the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform are right when they say the budget and technical corrections bills are not the place to write or rewrite laws, that special provisions should be banned from budget bills and that bills without content should not be eligible for filing.
The two groups also want complete public access to all meetings of the General Assembly, including budget and conference committee meetings. They also want to require that votes in all legislative committees, subcommittees and floor sessions to be roll-call votes, which are recorded and posted on the Internet.
Their efforts to bring more sunshine to state government are commendable and worthy of the public’s support. The public should commend them for trying to make government more accessible to everyone.
Honest government would have nothing to hide and would not fear sunshine. Do our legislators fear sunshine? We may find out during this session of the General Assembly.
Let’s hope they want to bask in the warmth of open government.