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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gagging on the Gag Law--IM 10

Last Friday, at the Brown County Democrat's $, 1-A-Month-Club, Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen and City Attorney Adam Altman spoke against Initiated Measure 10, pointing out the many flaws.

Actually, the measure grew out of a scientific experiment gone awry. The theory was that if you put an infinite number of Sarah Palins into infinity with an infinite number of keyboards, you would come up with manuscripts of every literary classic ever written. The experimenters could not come up with an infinite number of keyboards and not many Sarah Palins. The result was Initiated Measure 10 and its bluff and gibberish.

Our sights are set on something more that is needed. The South Dakota legal code is not that much more clear on open records than Initiated Measure 10. The party that has dominated the State House for so many years dribbles down its collective pants leg at the mention of truly open government. It had a chance last legislative session to improve open government laws, but the bill introduced by Sen. Nancy Turbak Berry had the effect on the dominant party of a diuretic overdose.

What South Dakota needs is laws that open all public records, with the exception of those covering proceedings that require confidentiality up to a point, such as law enforcement investigations and contract negotiations, and certain aspects of personnel records. Those latter instances need to be covered by a sunshine law which opens the proceedings up to full disclosure after a reasonable period of time, and then it needs a Freedom of Information Act to spell out the procedures through which records can be obtained and to guarantee that ALL citizens have access to them.

Such acts may be borrowed from other states, such as Illinois. And if they are borrowed, no one will accuse the drafters of plagiarism. They might be convicted on charges of democracy, however.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States