A recent Supreme Court ruling is prompting a push for a change in the state’s open meetings law. The bill from State Representative Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) would end a current exemption that exists for the Legislature, which allows both Houses to make their own rules on posting notices for meetings.
Richards says that loophole is the reason why the Wisconsin Supreme Court was recently able to rule the conference committee that advanced the Governor’s collective bargaining bill did not break the law, when it gave less than two hours notice before meeting. The open meetings law typically requires public meetings to be held with at least 24 hours notice.
The Milwaukee Democrat says he respects the court’s decision, but he feels the spirit of the law should be followed by all of government. He says the Legislature should not have a special rule that nobody else is allowed to use.
Richards is introducing a bill that would remove the exemption from the current law. He’s also planning to bring forward a Constitutional amendment to help clarify how open a meeting must be to the public. It’s inspired by another aspect of the Supreme Court ruling, which found the public was not denied access to the conference committee meeting because the doors of the Capitol were still open.
Without action from the Legislature, Richards worries either party could use that loophole in the future and deny the public access to meetings where important actions are taking place.