Dodging accountability by exempting themselves from legislation is unacceptable.
One of the more annoying things—and there are many—that elected representatives tend to do is exempt themselves from laws and rules they establish for others to follow.
Washington, Madison, Springfield and elsewhere, it’s common practice. And it’s wrong.
Here’s another example. Wisconsin municipal governments, school districts, counties and state offices are required to adhere to the public records law. Simply stated, that means government must make most records available to citizens for inspection upon request.
The purpose and benefits of the public records law are obvious. First and foremost it establishes that public officials work for the people and are accountable to them. In order for the people to exercise that authority citizens must have access to pertinent information. Nothing serves bad government better than the ability to keep secrets.
But years ago state legislators thought it would be helpful to carve out for themselves a few advantages, like the ability to destroy and delete records they preferred to keep the public from seeing.
If you catch a distinct whiff of a rat in all that, you are not alone.
A Democrat proposal in the Senate would change that arrangement, for the purpose of applying the same rules to the Legislature the law requires of other units of government.
Does it have a chance? A cynic might conclude, sadly, that since Republicans control the Legislature and generally refuse to take up anything proposed by Democrats this proposal is dead on arrival.
For the good of all citizens of Wisconsin let’s hope the two parties can find common purpose. Transparency in government should not be a partisan issue.
Besides, this is one way to show the people elected legislators do not consider themselves above the laws they enact for others to follow.
That would be good government.