In The News › Policy group urges against changes to state open meetings law

May 20, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Statewide

Policy group urges against changes to state open meetings law

Thursday, May 20, 2010
By Bill Barrow
The Times-Picayune

The Bureau of Governmental Research is asking legislators to spike a proposal, sought by the New Orleans City Council, to carve new exceptions to the state open meetings law.

The latest version of Senate Bill 583, which awaits further action by the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, would allow groups of four or fewer members of public bodies to conduct business outside the parameters of the public meetings law. Another amendment has been filed, but not debated or voted on, to restrict the bill to municipal councils.

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, filed the bill upon a request from all seven New Orleans City Council members. After an initial hearing last week, the Council asked the committee to pull the measure this week as it continues to consider its options on the issue.

In a letter to senators, BGR President Janet Howard said her group opposes “any dilution of the open meetings laws” and said the New Orleans officials have not offered any justification for a change. The council members say existing law keeps two members of a three-member subcommittee from having any private discussions of pending issues, because two constitutes a quorum that requires a public hearing.

Howard answered, “Without question, public servants are occasionally inconvenienced by the requirements of open government. If not managed properly, openness may even lead to certain inefficiencies in conducting public business. However, open government should not be sacrificed on the altar of efficiency.”

BGR, the letter said, analyzed sunshine laws in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. “In none of those states,” Howard wore, “could we find a broad exception for the majority of public body, or the committees thereof, to deliberate in private.”

The Senate committee has not rescheduled a hearing for Peterson’s bill.

May 20, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Statewide

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