Legislature must reject SB 2152

In an era in which citizens everywhere are calling out for something new in politics, when sincerity and plain-speaking are valued more than political correctness and equivocation, there is still the North Dakota Legislature. As if considering loosening up laws to make it easier to shoot fleeing potential criminals and giving the virtual thumbs-up to driving ones vehicle over protesters in the street isn’t bad enough, the Legislature is looking at SB 2152, which would dramatically decrease the transparency of government bodies across the state.

SB 2152 would would make secret the applications of every person seeking any public job in the entire state – from university president to athletic director to superintendent of schools to police chief to county road superintendent and everything in between. Furthermore, it would result in hundreds of closed meetings, because every time any public body discusses these applications they would be authorized to do so in executive session.

Historically, government operating in secret has not ended well. Is there some loud cry from the voters of North Dakota for more secretive government? In fact, no, there is not, and limiting the public’s right to know what government does is an extreme measure best left for far more serious issues than employment. Erecting a massive cloak of secrecy around government processes to deny transparency to taxpayers as a favor to potential job applicants is ethically deplorable.

Also deplorable is word on Tuesday that the bill was recommended for approval by a 5-1 vote of the Senate Political Subdivisions Committee, and the full vote could happen today.

Perhaps there is need for some very targeted changes here. HB 1333, for example, applies the closed application process only to the positions of higher ed chancellor and college/university presidents.

However, SB 2152 should be a non-starter. Unfortunately, unlike the ‘shoot ’em up’ bill or the running-over-protesters bill, this one is flying under the radar.

Residents are encouraged to call their representatives and speak up on this precarious threat to government transparency. To leave a message for one or more senators, call 1-888-NDLEGIS (635-3447) or 701-328-3373. Your message should include your name, city of residence and contact information along with a request to vote NO on SB 2152.