Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 23, 2006

Leaders must answer to state sunshine law

There's a break in the cloud cover at the Legislature regarding the state's "sunshine law," which protects public access to meetings and records. Now it's up to lawmakers to do the right thing: They should put themselves under the sunshine law.

House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke wisely abandoned her earlier plan to have an outside task force re-examine the sunshine law and its application.

A task force was not only unnecessary, but it also could have amounted to a back-door attempt to rewrite the sunshine law, regardless of good intentions.

Luke agreed to keep the bill alive, if only to provide a vehicle for other issues related to the sunshine law.

That creates an opportunity for lawmakers to install greater public confidence in government.

For nearly 30 years, the Legislature has exempted itself from the sunshine law. Lawmakers say that they subscribe to their own open-meetings policy and that the short legislative session requires the flexibility their policy provides to get the public's business done in a more efficient manner.

But efficiency should not come at the expense of the public's right to know. The Legislature has chronically resisted any effort to be put under the same law it has applied to other government officials. Lawmakers even refused to pass a bill that would have held them accountable simply by incorporating their own rules into the sunshine law.

That attitude has left voters asking the big question: Why should legislators be exempted from the sunshine law and play by their own set of rules?

Now Luke has left the door open for meaningful change. Will our lawmakers rise to meet that challenge? It's time our elected leaders understand that they are accountable to voters, and that preserving openness in government is one of their fundamental responsibilities. Taxpayers are watching.