House State Affairs Committee… Do we even need to tell you what’s coming next? By this point in the session, we’re begging to never hear that name again.
Rep. Vito Barbieri (yes, THAT Vito) brought a bill this week that would shield legislators from public records requests. It blocks emails, text messages and other communications between legislators and constituents from the public eye.
Just last year, a public records request was made for Senate Resource and Environment Committee Chairman Steve Bair’s (R-Blackfoot) emails and it was revealed that he was communicating with a wealthy landowner about putting some of Idaho’s prime hunting opportunities up for bid. Sen. Bair runs the committee that determines how hunting tags are distributed. We wouldn’t have known that without public records requests.
Contact the House State Affairs Committee and tell them this is a bad bill and a waste of time. What are they trying to hide from you?
Not your business
JEERS … to Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens. He’s trying to pull down the shades over Idaho’s Legislature.
Not that he needs a lot of help.
You’re not entitled to know how a legislator earns his living. So you’re never completely sure whether he’s acting in your best interests – or his.
Idaho has no independent ethics commission watchdogging legislative misbehavior. The politicians police themselves.
You’re locked out of the House and Senate caucus meetings – where the real action often occurs.
The Open Meetings Law does not apply to the Legislature. Your access to committee meetings is a matter of privilege, not right.
One tool you have is Idaho’s Public Records Act. Under it, public officials – including legislators – must hand over email and other communications upon request.
That opens a window on bills legislators are considering and who they’re consulting. For example, the Idaho Wildlife Federation used a public records request to document how Senate Resources and Environment Committee Chairman Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, discussed putting some of Idaho’s choicest hunting opportunities up for bid with an advocate of the so-called auction tags, eastern Idaho businessman Doug Sayer.
Since most bills clear the House and Senate without much debate, those emails also can shed a much-needed light on what motivated lawmakers to act.
Now Barbieri wants to remove the Legislature from much of the Public Records Act. Kept under seal would be communications among legislators, between lawmakers and staffers as well as between legislators and private citizens.
Any idea what Barbieri is trying to keep from you?