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October 18, 2019
Senator Vinehout and Representative Richards on The Open Meetings Law
Posted On: Sep 22, 2011

Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Richards propose requiring the Legislature to immediately comply with the open meetings law
Lawmakers also pursuing constitutional amendment to make proposed rules permanent
Madison--Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and Rep. Jon Richards proposed changing the legislative rules to immediately close a legal loophole that allows the Legislature to do as it pleases when it comes to open meetings.

“Government works best when we all get involved,” Sen. Vinehout said announcing the introduction of the bill.

“Legislation is like fish,” she continued. “We’ve got to set it on the table, let the sunlight shine on it and see if it stinks. If the doors and windows are closed, the sunlight is not going to get in.”

In June, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to decide whether legislative leaders violated the state’s open meetings law when they rushed to pass a bill that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public workers. As a result of the court’s decision, the Legislature is now free to make its own rules when it comes to open meetings-even if those rules violate the law or provide no public notice of a meeting.

Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Richards already introduced legislation to amend the state constitution to permanently close the Legislature’s loophole in the open meetings law. However, because amending the state constitution takes several years, they have proposed changing legislative rules to immediately apply the open meetings law to the Legislature without delay.

“Amending the constitution is a lengthy process,” Rep. Richards said. “There’s no reason why the Legislature cannot voluntarily apply the open meetings law to itself right now. Adopting these rule changes will hold the Legislature to the same standard of openness as school boards, city councils and other government bodies.”

Several Wisconsin citizen advocacy and open government organizations support the rule changes proposed by Sen. Vinehout and Rep. Richards, including the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, Common Cause in Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

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