Vote for support of open meetings

Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do you think that the Alaska Legislature should conduct the people's business in public? Should legislators discuss the merits of bills, the number of members who support a proposal, or the views of special interest groups in an open, accessible forum? Is it important for the public to know how legislators make decisions as they build the state's budget?

The League of Women Voters of Alaska is a strong proponent of open meetings and believes the Alaska Legislature should do all of its work where voters can observe and participate. When the 1989 Legislature closed the door to public scrutiny of the budget process, the league took them to Superior Court and won, securing an injunction to keep the budget, developed in private, from going into effect. That victory was short-lived when the Alaska Supreme Court reversed the decision, ruling that due to the doctrine of constitutional separation of powers, the court could not impose restrictions on the behavior of the Legislature.

Then in 1994, a legislative battle over ethics resulted in a statute specifically allowing legislators to "meet in a closed caucus or in a private, informational meeting to discuss and deliberate on political strategy." How then is the citizen's right to know, and our democracy, preserved?

As a voter, you have the power to create an accessible and accountable Legislature. Ask the candidates who are running to represent in the Legislature about their positions on open meetings. Ask if they would support closed caucus meetings, or if they would boycott any attempt to close the doors to voter scrutiny. If a transparent legislative process is important to you, vote for the candidate who believes that open meetings are part of his or her ethical responsibility to the people of Alaska. The League of Women Voters protects citizens' rights to know and encourages Alaskans to vote - on Nov. 4 - for those who believe in open meetings.

Marianne Mills

President, League of Women Voters of Alaska


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