Gov. Tim Pawlenty blasted DFLers last week for negotiating a bonding bill behind closed doors. DFL legislative leaders renewed their call Tuesday for inviting cameras into talks with the governor on bonding, General Assistance Medical Care and, eventually, balancing the budget. Republican leaders said they, too favor more transparency at the Capitol.
Here's one more call, from the Capitol basement: Lawmakers, open those doors!
Too much lawmaking in private isn't good for democratic governance in this state. It severs the connection that ought to exist between the people and their representatives. It heightens voter skepticism and alienation from government, while sparing lawmakers from the accountability democracy demands. It distorts media coverage, since journalists are reduced to reporting the after-meeting spin of spokespeople rather than covering actual proceedings. It likely delays decision-making, by freeing elected officials to spar over petty and personal matters without risking the penalty of public criticism.
In past years, elected officials have said that privacy is necessary for elected officials to move away from the promises they've made to their own political allies, and toward bipartisan consensus. What that claim should tell them is that too often, they are making campaign promises that get in the way of good governance. Requiring lawmaking negotiations to be public might deter politicians from making pledges for the sake of intraparty expediency that don't serve the whole state well.