- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A bill to strengthen Alabama’s Open Meetings Act passed its first test in the Legislature on Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a slightly revised version of the bill on a unanimous vote. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster, said the Legislature enacted a good Open Meeting Act in 2005, but three recent rulings by the Alabama Supreme Court “ripped it up and threw it out the window.”

In response to those rulings, his bill provides that legislative meetings are open to the public, that private citizens can sue for government boards not having open meetings, and that board members can’t use private meetings in small groups to avoid the whole board making decisions in open meetings.

The Judiciary Committee modified the last provision to make sure it is not violation for board members to exchange information so long as they don’t deliberate and try to influence how a person will vote while talking in small groups. Another revision specifies that gatherings to fill a position, such as a university president, are not serial meetings until the field is narrowed to three candidates or less.

The bill is backed by the Alabama Press Association and the governor.

“It’s a lot better than what we’ve currently got,” Press Association attorney Dennis Bailey said.

A similar bill is pending in a House committee, but the Press Association is trying to get Ward’s bill moving through the Legislature first, executive director Felicia Mason said.

Ward said passing an open meetings bill is not easy, but it is his top priority.

“I haven’t had anyone say they want to bypass open meetings. What I’ve had is people say is I want to know were the line is so I don’t have a violation,” he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide