New open meetings law good for Alabama
An extremely rare thing occurred recently in Montgomery.
The Alabama House of Representatives, the state Senate, and the governor all agreed to support a bill, a new "Sunshine law," that better defines the state's old open meetings law. The Alabama Press Association worked hard for the bill, as did Attorney General Troy King.
The old law allowed for private meetings to discuss "good name and character" of an individual. It was unclear if committee meetings of governing bodies were required to be open.
The new law, which goes into effect in October, more clearly defines that those charged with doing public business – your business – must do so in the light of day. While boards may still meet behind closed doors to discuss "general reputation and character" of an individual, they cannot do so to discuss an employee's job performance.
Members of government boards are not allowed to vote in private session or by secret ballot. However, closed door meetings may be held to discuss real estate deals for economic development, to discuss security, or to discuss ongoing litigation.
We sympathize with those elected officials who must sometimes take an uncomfortable public position. However, we still assert that it is the people's business that they do, and that the people have every right to know how they are being represented.
The new open meetings law is a good thing for Alabama. We salute those in Montgomery who worked to get it passed.