Eye On Boise

Idaho open meeting law reforms take effect today

Among the new laws taking effect today are reforms to Idaho's Open Meeting Law, which had been limited by a 2007 Idaho Supreme Court decision that blocked prosecution of any violations that couldn't be proven in court to be "knowing" or intentional. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, sponsor of the reform legislation, said, "It was in need of revision to ensure the people’s business remains the people’s business." In a news release, Wasden said, "The hard work and foresight of the journalists, local government officials and my staff who worked hard to overhaul this law is commendable.  For my part, I will continue to work tirelessly for open government and will recommend legislative changes to help ensure open government.” Click below to read his full release.

Full disclosure here: As the president of both the Idaho Press Club and IDOG, Idahoans for Openness in Government, I was among those who worked with the AG on the legislation. IDOG has worked with Wasden's office to present seminars to hundreds of local government officials, reporters and interested citizens around the state over the past five years to encourage knowledge of and compliance with the state's open meetings and open records laws; the Supreme Court decision had the bizarre effect of creating an incentive for ignorance of the law. That ends today.

STATE OF IDAHO

OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

LAWRENCE WASDEN

For Immediate Release
June 30, 2009

Open Meeting Law changes take effect July 1

(Boise) – Important changes to the Idaho Open Meeting Law take effect today, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.  Wasden led a coalition of local governments, journalists and open government advocates in presenting changes to the 2009 Legislature.  The proposals were adopted by the Idaho House of Representatives and the Idaho Senate and signed into law by the Governor.

Under the revised law, public officials are subject to a civil penalty of up to $50 for any violation of the Open Meeting Law.  Second and subsequent violations can result in a penalty of up to $500 and any “intentional” violation is subject to a civil penalty of up to $500.

In addition, the new law further restricts the circumstances under which governing bodies of public agencies may meet behind closed doors in “executive session.”

The amendments also clarify the procedure for amending a public meeting agenda before and during the meeting and provide a procedure by which governing bodies of public agencies can cure a violation of the Open Meeting Law.

“Idaho’s Open Meeting Law has been in effect since 1974,” Attorney General Wasden said.  “While there have been some changes to the law over the past 35 years, it was in need of revision to ensure the people’s business remains the people’s business.  The hard work and foresight of the journalists, local government officials and my staff who worked hard to overhaul this law is commendable.  For my part, I will continue to work tirelessly for open government and will recommend legislative changes to help ensure open government.”

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