Dear friends and neighbors,
I have struggled with this bill and want to share my thoughts with you.
The media has been less than honest about this issue and the judge made an unworkable decision. That being said, I recognize that ethics and duty require that I be as transparent as possible and I am willing to honor the requirements for transparency that would satisfy most people.
I was not sure how I was going to vote until right before I did. In the end, I voted for this bill because I could not stomach the distortions by interest groups that tend to get more attention by putting a negative spin on this issue. People who recently argued they have the right to demand, for example, video of child sex assault survivors even after being provided with audio and transcripts.
I have welcomed curious constituents who have shadowed me through meetings and conversations, even with lobbyists, to see how I work, and I have shared why I do what I do. I will continue to do that and am glad to share my calendar and other information with the public.
Senate Bill 6617 requires legislators to provide all the records that have been requested, all of which I have always been willing to provide. This bill is an expansion of what has been past practice, which is good.
The judge who made the ruling perhaps didn’t take into account how the legislature is staffed and organized, since it makes each legislator individually responsible and liable as an agency with staff and public records expertise. For a citizen legislator with minimal scheduling staff, this really is not feasible. The way the ruling came down is unworkable, even if one were trying to comply. This is the truth. Media reports that claim this is a way of avoiding transparency and bypassing a court decision are incorrect.
I am not inclined to create a dysfunctional situation and this bill provides time to make it work. It is not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction.
The bill provides some boundaries, which I believe protect constituents. This is important to me because we live in an era where data mining can assemble information to identify people and I want to protect people’s privacy. Constituents share medical and legal information with me, and sometimes employees share information that may be related to whistle-blowing protections. I want to protect those things.
I have heard that legislators who support the bill will be “buried”. I do not respond well to threats or even rumors of threats. The bottom-line is that this bill provides more information and transparency to the public and I believe it is a good step forward.
Voting for it will continue the discussion and education process on all sides. I want us to continue the conversation and want to hear your thoughts. So contact my office or meet with me back in district once the session is over. I can and will answer all your questions on this issue.