Shouldn't state government be open to citizens and accountable to the people?
Well, the Wisconsin State Legislature recently got a NO FRIEND OF OPENNESS AWARD from the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, a non-profit group devoted to open government.
"From ignoring the open meetings law in hastily passing a collective bargaining bill in March, to barring even police from knowing who may be carrying concealed weapons, to cracking down on cameras in the state Assembly, to embracing extreme secrecy in redistricting, the Legislature demonstrated not just disregard but actual contempt for Wisconsin's traditions of open government. It was a disgraceful performance we hope is never repeated."
And did you know that the Wisconsin Legislature was one of the three "winners" of the 2012 BLACK HOLE AWARD ? The Black Hole Award was launched by The Society of Professional Journalists to highlight the most heinous violations of the public's right to know.
"The Wisconsin State Legislature ignored the state's open meetings law in hastily passing a collective bargaining bill in March 2011, then successfully urged the state supreme court to exempt it from this law.
Additionally, tasked with redrawing voter boundaries based on the 2010 Census, the legislature's Republican leadership hammered out new maps behind closed doors, even having their members sign secrecy agreements. The maps were unveiled less than a week before the only public hearing on the bills, which promptly passed. Afterward, the leaders fought court orders to release records showing what they had done, drawing an uncommonly sharp rebuke from a federal judge.
The Wisconsin legislature also passed a law barring even police from knowing who may be carrying concealed weapons. And while opening the state capitol to these weapons, it cracked down on the use of cameras by citizens in the state assembly. "
For more on this subject, read the Journal Sentinel's March 15 Editorial State legislators walking backward on openness, With their continuing self-exemption from state law and an attitude of secretiveness, state legislators aren't serving the public
The State Integrity Investigation examined America's state capitols and recently released its assessment of all 50 states. The state governments were evaluated in several categories such as public access to information. In their Corruption Risk Report Card, Wisconsin's overall grade was C-. (In case you are wondering, Illinois got a C)
"Decision-making often takes place privately in Wisconsin's tumultous Capitol. But a new Accountability Board has brought some reforms."
"When a county prosecutor charged two of Gov. Scott Walker’s former aides in late January with illegally using taxpayer funds to raise campaign cash, it was a familiar tale.
Just a decade ago, lawmakers from both parties were jailed in the biggest political scandal in state history, in which top legislative leaders used taxpayer-funded legislative caucus offices to run private campaigns, diverting millions of dollars a year in state funds. The secret campaign machine was shut down after the Wisconsin State Journal, the capital’s largest-circulation newspaper, exposed the system in 2001.
That scandal prompted the state to fold its Ethics and Elections boards, long seen as toothless tigers, into a new Government Accountability Board in 2008. Watchdogs say those reforms helped clean up the state."
"That explains in part why Wisconsin, a state of about 5.7 million, did not score worse in the State Integrity Investigation... "
But it notes: "...the accountability board is under fire by Republican lawmakers who'd prefer to go back to the old ethics and elections boards, which were controlled by the party in power."
Wisconsin's shameful redistricting process received the study's lowest grade of "F".
For more, click on State Integrity Investigation, Keeping Government Honest 's Website.