Sunshine is good for you. But we’re not talking about the rays from the sun up in the sky.
The sunshine we’re talking about are sunshine laws. These are laws that allow the general public and the agents of the public– the members of the free press– access to government. That means the right to attend or monitor government meetings and the right to view government documents.
The laws get their name because it’s said dirty deals are made in dark, back rooms, behind closed doors. Opening those doors allows in sunshine, often called the best disinfectant.
These laws– sunshine laws– are critical, because they allow you to know what government is doing in your name, how government officials are spending your money, why certain decisions are being made, and why some topics are open for discussion.
Government has so much power to do so many things. It can incur debt that your tax dollars must repay. It can take on or allow construction projects that could have a profoundly negative impact on your life. It can pass laws you will be required to follow– no matter how you feel about them.
If the free press isn’t allowed access to government meetings or documents, will you know what is being done with your tax dollars? Could you express an opinion or work to change things? Probably not.
This is Sunshine Week, the week when newspapers across America celebrate the laws that allow us to work on your behalf, for your benefit, by keeping an eye on government.
Just as sunshine warms and protects us from the cold, our sunshine laws protect us as well.