Washington forecast: More government sunshine

The Billings Gazette

by Editorial

Last week in Washington, D.C., Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced legislation that would help bring federal government openness into the 21st century. The Public Online Information Act would require the executive branch to post all public documents online, to make them available at no charge to the public and expresses a sense of the Senate that legislative and judicial documents should be posted online, too.

The key here is access. Waiting weeks or months for paper documents is ridiculous in the electronic information age. Public information should be immediately available and it should be simple for citizens to find it. That’s what Tester’s bill and a similar bill introduced by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., aim to do.

As Daniel Schuman wrote Monday on the Sunlight Foundation Blog: “No other transparency legislation so dramatically shifts the presumption from government secrecy to government openness with respect to making public documents available to the American people. Not since FOIA have the American people been given a broad right to make sure that their government’s transparency policies work for them.”

Tester deserves credit for presenting this bill. As the senator said: “A little sunshine on government is always a good thing.”