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Hartselle Enquirer

Governor Bentley signs bill for Open Meetings

Governor Robert Bentley held a ceremonial bill signing Tues., June 30 for the Open Meetings Act passed during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session.  This legislation amends, strengthens and clarifies the original intent of the Alabama Open Meetings Act of 2005.

“Transparency promotes government accountability, and as elected officials, we are held to a higher standard for our decisions,” Bentley said. “It is important that our state’s open meetings law allows the public to see and be involved in government decisions. I supported this bill last year, and I am proud to see the Alabama Legislature pass this important piece of legislation this year.”

The legislation added three new amendments to the current 2005 Open Meetings Law:

(1)   It expressly states that meetings in small groups without proper notice to discuss issues that will come before the full body are not permitted. There are times when government business requires closed-door meetings, and the current law provides for those situations.

(2)   It clarifies that Alabama citizens have a right to bring an action against a governmental body if they believe the body has violated the law, and any penalties assessed are payable to the plaintiff.

(3) The legislation reflects that the Alabama Constitution requires the Alabama Legislature to meet with its doors open to the public unless a vote is taken in public that secrecy is required in certain circumstances.

SB 21 was co-sponsored by Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and State Representative Randy Davis (R-Daphne).

“Government should be open, transparent, accountable, and its business done before the people,” Ward said. “We have now strengthened the original intent of the Open Meetings law by forbidding members of a government board from holding secret meetings to collude on issues that should be discussed in the open. The people’s business should be done in the light of public oversight.”

“The Open Meetings Act ensures that meetings of our public officials are accessible and that everyday citizens can engage in the process,” Davis said. “I’m proud to have sponsored this important bill that is truly for the people of Alabama.”