One blow behind closed doors, two blows to open government | CTVotersCount.org

One blow behind closed doors, two blows to open government

Statement from the Connecticut Freedom of Information Council: Restore public access to public hearings <read>

To the surprise of many, the vast majority of transcripts from public hearings held during the recently adjourned 2018 legislative session are not available. Officials from the Office of Legislative Management and the House and Senate say that transcription services have fallen victim to budget cuts, with the elimination of the service expected to save about $100,000 annually. The decision apparently was made without public input and has been condemned by open-government advocates.

This is a double whammy to open government:

  • It was a decision made months ago behind closed doors with no notice to those effected.
  • It curtails public access to information and provides no public record of critical information.

Can there be any wonder why this was done in secret – It would not have survived scrutiny:

Murphy was a member of a task force that met in 2010 and was charged with making recommendations regarding the conversion of legislative records from paper to electronic form. According to the group’s final report, “the task force was presented with an overwhelming amount of testimony opposing elimination of public hearing transcriptions.”

Among those testifying were members of the legislative, judicial and executive branches, including the offices of the attorney general, chief court administrator, chief public defender and the Division of Criminal Justice. Others included the Connecticut Bar Association and the Southern New England Law Librarians Association. Ultimately, the vote to oppose elimination of the transcripts was unanimous.

Opposition has not abated and many open-government advocates view the decision by legislative leaders as yet another step in limiting accountability and curtailing transparency.

This directly effects me, CT Voters Count, and the Citizen Audit.  It effects anyone involved in the legislative process or litigation related to Connecticut law. This effects you indirectly, and significantly.

For example:

  • Twice this year I heard testimony which I wanted to view the transcript when it became available. Once to preserve and retain a statement of a state official in their testimony. Another time to lookup a critical reference from expert testimony for use in future years.
  • I have been working toward passing a civil rights bill for a couple of years. It would extend a bill passed in 2002. The first thing legislators ask for is the legislative history of the bill in 2002.  Fortunately, that testimony transcribed prior to online access, is preserved and available at the State Library.
  • Similarly the record of another bill passed several years ago provides evidence that the Legislative intent is not being followed, resulting in the disenfranchisement of voters.

This follows the assaults on CT-N and the past refusal to provide public access to the accounting records of the UConn Foundation. Connecticut once had a Freedom of Information law that was the envy of the world. This is also consistent with unrelenting attacks chipping away at Elections Enforcement and the Citizen Election Program.

 

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