Real transparency requires reform

Sen. Nick Harper is right to say that transparency is the lifeblood of democracy. (March 3 HeraldNet guest commentary, “Budget shenanigans a blow to transparency.”) Senate Democrats raised objections to a lack of transparency when Senate Republicans brought a budget to the floor and adopted it. What Sen. Harper fails to point out is that transparency shortcuts are the norm, not the exception, in Olympia.

Introducing and voting on “ghost bills” that are just blank sheets of paper, scheduling last-minute hearings on newly-introduced bills, holding budget negotiations behind closed doors, rushing bills to a vote without adequate public notice — these are common practices in both houses of the Legislature.

At any given moment, the minority party can be counted on to attack the other side of the aisle for their lack of transparency. But is it true commitment to open government or just a cynical political game?

Rather than climbing on the High Horse of Transparency to complain about their loss of power, Sen. Harper and his colleagues should reform the legislative process once and for all. The Republicans have offered their criticisms of the lack of transparency over the last few years. Now Democrats are joining the chorus. Perhaps they can all work together to hold themselves accountable.

Michael Reitz

General Counsel

The Freedom Foundation