When this year’s session of the Wyoming Legislature began, a slate of bills that contradicted the rhetoric of transparency gave many across the state pause. Many of the new legislators — and other statewide elected officials — had just campaigned on making the state’s government more accessible and open to its citizens.
Then, a number of bills flew in the face of those promises.
While the start was counterproductive, the result included ardent discussions about the need for more transparency — not less — in government and at least one bill that, if passed, will move the state in the right direction.
Senate File 57, a bill that legislators and lobbyists had worked on for months during the interim, aimed to tighten timelines for public records requests and established penalties for public officials who do not meet those requirements. Amendments also created an ombudsmen position appointed by the governor’s office to whom public records complaints would be filed. A budget line item was added to cover the cost of the position.
SF57 passed unanimously out of the Senate Corporations and Appropriations committees and 28-2 in the Senate as a whole, with all of our local senators voting in favor. In the House, it passed out of that body’s Corporations Committee unanimously, referred to the Appropriations Committee where it passed 6-1 and placed on the general file Feb. 13. With a few more amendments — primarily tightening up language in the bill — the bill has passed the House Committee of the Whole on second reading.
Assuming the bill continues to move forward, Wyoming citizens should rejoice that legislators took a step forward to help keep constituents better informed and better able to participate in the workings of government.