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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

A debate about transparency...behind closed doors

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We've all burned the midnight oil.   Sometimes in high school.   Maybe in college.  Perhaps on the job, when a deadline looms and the in-box is full to the brim.

Happens in government, too, and some folks don't like that.

There's a push in Madison to ban late-nighters in the Assembly--you know, those marathon sessions on key bills that drag on and on into the wee-smalls ending with votes done as the sun is rising and tempers are fraying.   Act 10 came into being at one in the morning.   Miller Park was done just before sun-up.


Critics say this is no way to do business, to debate key issues when most voters are sleeping.   Personally, I have no trouble with such sessions, mostly for selfish reasons: nothing says "fresh news" like that which was made while the audience was sleeping and unaware.  Plus, marathons mean GREAT tape and probably some of the most honest debate you ever hear in Madison.   Fatigue makes politicians blurt things out they'd never say when fully rested.   I thing it's called "the truth".

As for those who say such sessions are secretive, I say BS: they're open and covered probably more intently because of their unique nature.   Plus, we now have bloggers,, WisEye and other watchdogs who give the Capitol in general and midnight-oil burners in particular plenty of attention.   If a passionate voter really wants to follow early a.m. discussion, it can be done.   If you're worried about sleep, then don't tell me you were out at four a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving buying a crock pot.

What bothers me more about the subject is the fact that a meeting on possible legislative curfews happened--wait for it--behind closed doors.    Assembly Leader Robin Vos and Minority head Peter Barca chatted the subject up Tuesday at the Capitol in a meeting from which reporters were barred.   They say they weren't violating the open meetings law, even though their committee had a quorum.    

Strange.   A debate, ostensibly about legislative transparency being held in private.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant--I love that phrase 'cause it's true--and there's plenty of it, even when lawmakers meet in open session  at ungodly hours.   No rays get in, though, when the door is closed.  Maybe this is how the sausage gets made, but it sure would be nice to be in the back of the butcher shop when the meat is getting ground.

Makes you wonder what it is that they don't want you to see/hear.




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