Even as we celebrate, still fighting for Sunshine

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, March 13, 2013

James Madison, the father of our federal Constitution, wrote that “consent of the governed” requires that the people be able to “arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

This week, Sunshine Week, commemorates the anniversary of Madison’s birth, and promotes dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.

Despite the increasing ease of communication through electronics, protecting this freedom of information remains a constant battle for the media. In Alabama, lobbyists for the Alabama Press Association do battle in Montgomery every year to protect not just the media’s, but the public’s right to information.

For instance, SB125 and HB275 in the current session of the legislature would remove the requirement of county governments to publish printed copies of voters lists, as well as the requirement to publish the lists of voters purged from those lists. The APA has thus far successfully fought to keep the requirement to published purged voters lists.

Another bill, SB102, as originally written would allow government bodies – including county commissions, boards of education, and city councils to meet via teleconference. The APA also has worked to get this bill amended so that it only applies to governing bodies with statewide jurisdiction.

We continue this fight because we believe every citizen in our participatory democracy has an inherent right to access to government meetings and public records; and that an open and accessible government is vital to establishing and maintaining the people’s trust and confidence in their government and in the government’s ability to effectively serve its citizens.

That is why we celebrate Sunshine Week, and work diligently always to enhance the public’s access to government records and information.