Now, it’s up to the Georgia Senate to quickly do its part. As the state’s chief legal officer, Olens should keep close watch on the bill’s progress in the waning days of the legislative session. If lawmakers move to damage what’s now a solidly worthwhile piece of law, Olens should not hesitate to withdraw his support.
That drastic action should not become necessary. Senators should build on the work of the House and pass the bill without alteration, avoiding any temptation to tinker, water down or otherwise change legislation that’s been carefully wordsmithed by experts on both sides of the open government debate. Senate leadership can help in this worthy cause by protecting the bill from amendments.
That would be the best homage lawmakers could pay toward National Sunshine Week, which begins today. Named after so-called “Sunshine” laws intended to keep government business out in the open, the week is intended as a recognition of a cherished civic ideal that’s in the best interests of all of us.
In a representative democracy, the people’s business should be open and accessible to all who take an interest in public affairs. It is often those in the news media who press hard for access to public records, filing freedom of information requests and the like, to the consternation of many so-called public servants. Elsewhere in today’s AJC, you’ll find examples of how we’ve used the Georgia Open Records Act to push for details of the public’s business that, in many cases, bureaucrats and elected officials would have preferred to keep secret.
That’s our job — and yours too, we’d suggest. Sunshine laws are not crafted first and foremost to serve journalism’s interest. In our role as public watchdogs, we simply act using tools that are available to any interested citizen. That’s as it should be in a free society. The cause of open government should be claimed by all of us, since public-sector actions affect us all.
Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.