Today, as I write this, the special legislative committee is meeting and reviewing the HB 477 law that was passed a couple of weeks ago. The committee is comprised of over 20 people, including legislators, private citizens, media representatives and others.
This committee has only come about because the citizens of this state were outraged by not only by the way HB 477 changed the right of the public to know what their government officials are doing, but also because of the way it was passed through the legislature and then signed by the governor.
Yes it is true that the representatives and our state executive said their would be "discussions" about the law after it passed, but that is all they would have been if it had not been for the public out cry over this piece of legislation.
What that committee will accomplish remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the governor has also called a special session of the legislature on Friday, to in his words, "repeal and replace" the bill that was passed. No one is sure what that means yet. Usually when a legislature repeals a bill, they don't replace it with something in the same session, especially a special session. The legislature really doesn't like repealing bills either; it makes them look like they were wrong about something. In this case that is definitely true. Maybe the governor threw the "replace" word in to make it more palatable to those that don't want to go back to where we were in the middle of February, when we had the best state and local sunshine laws in the country. You know, people like those in the Senate who are now saying "not so fast."
The point is that the legislature is largely controlled by a few individuals in the leadership. It is obvious by comments made from legislators in the last week that blackmail is not beyond the pale of these leaders actions. When that came out people seemed to be so shocked by the concept, but ask anyone that has dealt with the legislature for any real length of time and they will tell you that is the way things are done there.
Can we change that or is that just "politics as usual?"
I'm not sure, but one thing we can change and that is how the public should view their representatives after this debacle, regardless of the outcome. I think that many in the legislature feel that if they can get HB 477 taken out or fixed in some way, what happened in this past month will be forgotten by the next election.
The public does have a short memory and politicians know it. That has always been true unless someone is involved in a scandal about sex, drugs or even short term mental derangement. Then labels hang around political types necks for basically the rest of their lives. But what doesn't seem to stick with people, especially when it is an entire body of people and not just one individual, is if they enact really bad legislation, which to me is always more important in terms of politicians actions than what they do in the bedroom or if they smoked dope when they were 19.
Regardless of what they do Friday or any other time between now and the fall of 2012, we need to remember what they did this year. Sadly, in some ways, they were one of the better legislatures we have had. They dealt pretty well with immigration challenges and worked within a budget to keep the state one of the few that are in the black during these bad times. Instead they have written themselves an epitaph based entirely on trying to limit information that the public should know.
How that legacy will play out remains to be seen.