Today, members of the House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee will spend most of their time becoming experts on the state's open-meetings law, a statute filled with so many loopholes that government bodies can easily shut their doors to keep out the public for the most superficial reasons. Delegates won't have any trouble recognizing the law's flaws.
Yet Del. Anne S. Perkins, who chairs the House panel, already is complaining about the lack of time the committee has to grasp the essence of this issue. The bill was the product of a long Senate subcommittee study that worked out changes with representatives of local governments and the media. Delegates did not deal with the open-meetings controversy until the Senate-passed bill arrived on Ms. Perkins' doorstep last week.
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand why revisions are needed in Maryland's open-meetings statute. The 13-year-old law has so many exemptions that local officials can conduct private, closed sessions virtually any time they wish. The fate of important public policy issues then ends up being discussed and decided in secret. This leads to the kind of backroom meetings that destroys the public's confidence in its own government.