Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Saturday, February 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 29° Cloudy
Opinion >  Editorial

Shout down Idaho lawmaker’s secrecy bid

Free advice for Idaho lawmakers: Make quick work of state Rep. Vito Barbieri’s attempt to exempt your communications from the Idaho Public Records Act and boost your political careers at the same time.

Just say, “No.” Better yet, “Hell, no!”

Do it in an email or a text. Sit down with pen and paper. Rise up in a public forum. Then sit back and bask in the applause.

You’ll look like selfless heroes striking a blow for open government while looking out for the people.

If you’ve run on a Reaganesque platform of “government isn’t the solution, but the problem,” your proclamations will dovetail nicely with that theme.

Rep. Barbieri, of Dalton Gardens, has thrown many anti-government haymakers from the conservative stronghold of Legislative District 2, so it’s odd that he wants to make government more secretive.

How is that supposed to build trust?

And yet on Wednesday, he introduced a “trust us” proposal, which, according to the Associated Press, “would create a massive change to the Idaho Public Records Act by shielding most of the communications Idaho lawmakers have with fellow legislative members and legislative staff.”

In addition: “The exemption would also hide research requests made by lawmakers and all personal identifiable information of private citizens who have contacted a lawmaker,” the AP reported.

Golly, why not just lock down the Capitol during work hours and emerge with the results a couple months later?

Under Barbieri’s abomination, not only would the public be unable to unearth what their public servants are up to outside of public hearings, they couldn’t discern who might be seeking favors.

People who care enough to be informed should not treated as nosy.

The proposal is sold as “streamlining” lawmaking and protecting the privacy of those petitioning the government. But government is, by definition, a public entity, and as much as possible its agents should be doing the people’s business in the open.

We’re already in an age when more and more politicians are taking their communications offline to avoid scrutiny. Ask Hillary Clinton what the public thinks of that. Vice President Mike Pence is now in a public-relations jam based on news that he used private email to conduct the public’s business as Indiana’s governor.

Thankfully, Washington state’s Supreme Court has determined that public information on private devices (such as personal computers and cellphones) is still public. The California Supreme Court just issued a similar ruling. If those cases had gone the other way, public records laws could be easily evaded.

Still, reporters and others seeking public records have to be careful to ask for records on public and private devices.

If Barbieri gets his way, there would be no point in asking for a lot of information.

The House State Affairs Committee advanced his proposal with no discussion (naturally), but it still must face a full legislative hearing.

If you think your representatives need some guidance on this issue, be sure to communicate with them. It only takes a few words.

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter

There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email

You have been successfully subscribed!