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As I See It

Wisconsin lawmakers circumvent open meeting laws



It seems that no matter how many laws we may pass to try to hold our politicians accountable, our lawmakers inevitably find a way around them. For example, there are a number of laws which require those we elect to public office do the people’s business in public. Meetings where decisions are made about our tax dollars are to be held in a forum where we can watch and even participate. But in Wisconsin, it is becoming increasingly common for our state representatives to try to remain in the shadows. This week in Madison, Republicans serving on the Budget Committee will meet in private to discuss the Governor’s budget proposal. But because only Republican lawmakers are invited to this closed-door discussion, there will not be a quorum of the committee, and therefore, technically, it does not violate the state’s open meetings laws. But it sure isn’t right. What do they want to say in private that they don’t want to say in public? Why the need for secrecy? Unfortunately, this tactic is becoming more common. Members of the Assembly Corrections Committee circumvented the law by taking turns in groups touring the state’s troubled youth prison so as to keep their meeting private. There is a reason we have laws designed to keep the public informed. These troubling tactics may not violate the letter of the law, but certainly violate the spirit of the law.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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