Open government is a cornerstone of democracy. It enables the public and the press to play a watchful role in curbing wasteful government spending and guarding against corruption and misconduct. It permits the people to be engaged in their governance. Indeed, openness is a prerequisite for trust, which has often been in short supply in Oregon and across the country. This is the core value of our public records and open meeting laws.
HB 2431 will require state agencies to publicly report basic information about how many public requests they receive, how long it takes to respond to requests, and how fee waivers and reductions are handled. This information is not currently being tracked, making it difficult to assess the weak points in our system. By shedding light on the way public records are being handled by state agencies, Oregon’s Public Records Advocate, this body, and other stakeholders will be in a better position to design and recommend appropriate and responsive policy.
By keeping its actions open to scrutiny, government can show the public that it has nothing to hide, while helping to cast light on inappropriate or unlawful activity when it does occur. As explained by United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, "Sunlight... is the best of disinfectants."