Openness in the News – 8-23-2013

The Mount Vernon Gazette had a great story yesterday by Michael Lee Pope on the hearing that a Freedom of Information Advisory Council subcommittee gave Del. Scott Surovell’s bill to bring the State Corporation Commission (SCC) within the scope of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The SCC currently operates largely outside FOIA thanks to a relatively recent decision by another body in Virginia government that’s not transparent: the Virginia Supreme Court.  The case is Christian v. State Corporation Commission, 282 Va. 392, 718 S.E.2d 767 (2011) (link to slip op.).

If you find yourself surprised that there are enclaves where open government is not embraced, well, the Hanover Board of Supervisors would probably be delighted if you’d move there.

If you find yourself wanting to scream “but ending secret backroom dealings is the point” at the quotes in the article about how openness would put an end to businesses’ wonderful, informal, secret interactions with the SCC, we’re right there with you.

If you find yourself thinking that no one wants to interfere with the deliberations of the SCC’s commissioners and that there are easy ways to protect the judicial functions of the SCC while still extending FOIA to it, well then you’re getting too logical for the game of government.

The SCC has found itself in the news of late regarding questions about waste and procurement practices, posed primarily by WRIC’s 8News Investigates.  Nonetheless, as the story recounts, Del. Surovell’s bill met a chilly reception, thanks to opposition from the SCC and business.  We thank Del. Surovell for pushing his bill — we think it’s high time to increase transparency at the SCC (and the courts), including by getting them out of a parallel, less open universe of laws.


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