Less access bad idea

Every two years like clockwork it happens again, a select group of state lawmakers present bills designed to shut off access to public information.

For years we have fought those efforts, winning some battles and losing others.

Well the members of the Legislature are at it again.

According to the North Dakota Newspaper Association, there are four proposed laws designed to keep the public in the dark. We will address two of those today.

SB 2134 would allow the board of higher education to close a meeting to hire or fire a chancellor. A second section of this law would exempt all records used in performance reviews of college presidents from the open records law.

Both are horrible ideas.

If recent history has proven anything, it is clear the public needs to know more, often a lot more, about potential chancellors before they are hired. The same can be said for college presidents.

The board of higher education has been slapped on the wrist several times in recent years for violating the open meetings law. Instead of working to regain the public trust by becoming more open, they want to close off public access. It’s a bad idea, bad government and should be soundly defeated. SB 2134 needs to be defeated to send a message to the board of higher education that open government is always better government.

This bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee that is chaired by David Hogue of Minot. If you want to share your opinion on the bill, email Hogue at dhogue@nd.gov.

A second bill, SB 2153, would close school personnel files from the public if any school district employee faces a criminal complaint.

Again, this is a bad idea and does nothing to serve the public interest.

This bill is likely the result of some high-profile cases where teachers have been charged with sex crimes. But in that case, or any case, hiding information is not the right answer.

The fact is public school employees are government employees. They need to play by the same rules that govern city, county, state and other government employees.

SB 2153 needs to be voted down to protect the public and future generations.