Green River Star -

Out View: Access to government can improve


April 12, 2017

When a politician complains about public’s perception of an issue or that a journalist is making a mountain out of a molehill, it’s usually because they’ve been involved in something that most people disagree with.

For example, Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, told the Casper Star-Tribune sportsmen opposing a controversial bill regarding state ownership of federal lands, didn’t really understand the intent of the bill.

“I think the message that a lot of people believe out there... really isn’t what it’s about. I think we’ve lost that message,” he told the newspaper.

Forward-thinking people opposed to the bill saw it as a way for proponents of a federal lands transfer to the states to ultimately find a way to sell state-owned lands off for development, hindering public access. They opposed it, citing that potential outcome, and Bebout, facing increasing public pressure, withdrew it.

This is how legislation should work.

While the public lands bill was a high-profile bill, much more work is going on during the interim. Many of the committee meetings taking place between now and the start of the 2018 legislate are scheduled across the state and while public testimony is welcome, lining up a free Tuesday to drive to a meeting in Sheridan is difficult for a lot of people.

A late Spring or early Fall snow storm could impact travel as well, increasing the difficulties involved with attending a meeting on the other side of the state.

Select committees, as well as the legislature as a whole, should make transparency a top priority with many of these meetings. According to legislators from Green River, not all of these meetings have recordings provided to the public or are live streamed through the internet. For a state as vast as ours, making any meeting of a legislative body as open and public as possible should be a primary goal.

It’s simple to stream a meeting live and recordings are already made for the benefit of those typing meeting minutes. With a recording, simply host it on an easy to reach page on the legislature’s website or post it to Youtube and provide links.

The most important time for people to make their opinions known is during the interim sessions and providing as much access to those meetings, either through the internet or after the fact through a recording, gives the state’s residents the best opportunity to review testimony and voice their opinions to legislators drafting future bills.


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