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Advocates Debate Strength Of Open Government Bill

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By Peter Granitz

Some open-government advocates are questioning how far an open-meetings bill, set to hit the D.C. Council, will actually go.

Ward Four councilmember Muriel Bowser will introduce the “Open Government is Good Government Act” today. The bill would require public bodies, the Council, task forces, boards and commissions, to open their doors to citizens and the press if a quorum is present.

“You have public bodies that meet, do their business and come out and vote in public,” says Bowser.

In 2009 Bowser joined the rest of the Council in voting to raise taxes. The vote followed meetings closed to the public.

But not all good-government-types believe the hype. Caitlin Ginley with the Center for Public Integrity says it’s a step in the right direction but falls short. If lawmakers want to truly open up government, she says they’d be better enacting stricter financial disclosure laws.

“Putting an open meetings law under a huge umbrella act like that and making it sound like this is the 'be all end all' in good government can sort of be misleading to your constituents," says Ginley.

A similar measure came up in 2006 but never passed the full Council.

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