In June, the California state legislature suspended the state's open meetings law, which requires cities and other agencies to publish the agendas of public meetings before they occur and make the minutes of these meetings available to citizens after they occur. In suspending the law, the state is sacrificing not only a fundamental element of a democratic society, but a vital tool that can actually save money.
On Aug. 2, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit and an injunction against the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), challenging the constitutionality of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act). The ACLU is suing on behalf of seven high-level federal government employees and four organizations representing them. The ACLU claims that posting officials’ financial information online violates their privacy in addition to potentially threatening their physical safety. On the basis of similar concerns, Congress passed a bill delaying implementation of the STOCK Act.
Local officials from more than 200 municipalities in 15 states, including city councils, town boards, and county legislatures, have banned natural gas drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking. These officials have decided that fracking poses an unacceptable risk to the drinking water, health, and future of their communities. However, state governments and corporations have started legally challenging these efforts, a move that would strip the power of democratically elected local governments to establish quality-of-life protections their constituencies want.
The Senate held two votes on the DISCLOSE Act on July 16 and 17 but failed to pass the legislation each time. The bill would have created new campaign finance disclosure requirements and made public the names of super PAC contributors. In an effort to control the rising tide of "secret money" – political campaign spending by unknown donors – the bill attempted to make the federal election process more transparent.
Transparency isn't typically the first thing that comes to mind about the 2010 health care law. However, the law puts more health care information in the hands of consumers and gives the public new tools for combating waste and fraud.