Editorial: Support open government, transparency

Published 9:26 am Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Newspapers have long been advocates of openness — whether through meetings, access to data or promoting more transparency.

Thus, we were pleased to find out last week that former Speaker of the House Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, has proposed a bill to do just that in the Minnesota Legislature.

The bill would make the Legislature subject to the Minnesota Data Practices Act and the state’s open meeting laws. A separate bill by Thissen attempts to require the House and Senate to adopt joint budget targets — long before the often hectic time at the end of the session.

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Thissen said he hopes by opening the Legislature up to the same data practices and open meeting requirements as other elected officials, legislators can start rebuilding trust and creating better laws, according to a press release.

The bill makes all meetings within the Legislature, including conference committees, open to people with advance notice.

It makes letters, emails and other communication and documents available for public review and makes all legislative schedules public so residents can know when their legislator — and others — have meetings.

“Too many Minnesotans are discouraged and believe that state government is working for insiders and the well-connected rather than working — as it should — for regular people. I believe sunshine leads to trust and accountability,” Thissen said.

We hope this bill can lead the Legislature to avoid last-minute, rushed decisions. This will allow legislators — and the public — the chance to find out in detail what is being voted on ahead of time. We wish so much work didn’t have to be done behind closed doors by party leaders and the governor.