Openness and Accountability

State government in Columbia is among the most secretive in the nation, and too often that tendency to keep information from the public trickles down to the local level.

We can fix this in several ways:

* Pass a permanent law that mandates “on the record voting” for every vote taken by either chamber of the legislature. Both the House and the Senate passed rules changes in 2009 that greatly enhanced transparency, but we need a permanent law covering every vote if we’re serious about having “nothing to hide.”

* Create an online checkbook requiring all taxpayer-funded expenses at the state and local level to be disclosed and available for public review on the web. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom has offered to create and maintain this database, and the small cost it would involve to set up would be paid for many times over by the savings we would realize from expanded transparency and accountability.

* Expand disclosure requirements for lawmakers in reporting their income. There are far too many conflicts of interests that determine public policy in Columbia, and frankly, it’s a shame that so many lawmakers like to hide behind insufficient disclosure of their financial interests.

* Enact open records reform. Information the taxpayers pay for should always be freely available for them to inspect. Unfortunately, dozens of local governments hide behind exorbitant costs to keep taxpayer watchdogs as well as the public from viewing these documents. Sometimes, these fees total hundreds of thousands of dollars. Limiting government’s ability to keep you in the dark on information that your tax dollars pay for is a no-brainer.