The News Editorial: Things make you go Hmmm: State Legislature edition
March 4, 2021
In this edition of Things Make You Go Hmmm we look at a few bills before the Wyoming State Legislature and we’ll start with Senate File 17 which would stop the requirement of cities, towns and counties to publish minutes and salary notices in a newspaper of general circulation; and eliminate the requirement for school districts to publish warrants of over $500.
The requirement for publication in a newspaper is for the public’s benefit. Cities, towns, counties and school districts are spending the public’s money and the public has a right to know how that money is being spent (warrants) and what the cities, towns and counties are doing, how they are governing.
Yes, we as newspapers cover these meetings but our stories highlight the most important things that occur in a meeting. Our reporters are not secretaries, we do not take the minutes, we don’t report on every thing that goes on in a meeting. That is what the minutes are for. It is important for the public to have access to that information.
Senate File 17 would require that information to be on the websites of the respective government entities. But, here is the part that makes you go hmmm. Those public notices are already available free on several websites. We publish for free these notices on our website in an easy to find location with a “Legals” tab on our home page.
The law already requires that newspapers receive those minutes within 12 days of adjournment of every meeting. That does not always happen. While we have not had an issue here in Washakie County, when I worked in another county the clerk got months behind in getting minutes to the newspaper, getting minutes prepared and available to the public, forget putting them on the website.
So if you remove newspapers from the publication requirement there is no one holding the government accountable on ensuring public access of the legal public notices.
But there are many other issues with having access to minutes, warrants and salaries online only — what if the website gets hacked, what if the power is out, what if the government entity website serve is down?
Many websites are not user friendly and some sites it is difficult to find where those minutes are located.
But the biggest factor is that having public notices on the website limits who has access to them. Any member of the public can purchase a paper or come into our office and ask for a copy. Not everyone has access to the internet, nor do they want to attempt to navigate through many websites to try and find the information they seek.
Access to government public records should be easy, not difficult, should be transparent. Access to government public records should be about the public not about what’s easy or beneficial for the government agencies. Any laws should benefit the public – the people, the people who elect the legislators and who support the government agencies.
Another bill that makes you go Hmmm, two years ago the State Legislature approved a Daylight Saving Time bill that would move Wyoming to daylight saving time year round. The caveat being that neighboring states are also required to have a similar bill and the federal government would have to approve the change.
This year there is a bill to repeal the daylight saving time bill and keep Wyoming in mountain standard time year round, which is what Arizona does currently.
Federal approval is not required, nor is similar legislation from other states required.
Per the U.S. Department of Transportation website, “Under the Uniform Time Act, as amended, States may exempt themselves from observing Daylight Saving Time by State law. If a State chooses to observe Daylight Saving Time, it must begin and end on federally mandated dates. Daylight Saving Time is not observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and most of Arizona.”
Per the US DOT, “The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees the Nation’s time zones and the uniform observance of Daylight Saving Time. The oversight of time zones was assigned to DOT because time standards are important for many modes of transportation. Today, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 U.S.C. §§ 260-64) establishes a system of uniform Daylight Saving Time throughout the Nation and its possessions, and provides that either Congress or the Secretary of Transportation can change a time-zone boundary.”
It appears not even our state Legislature can make up its mind what time zone we should stay in, so, perhaps, as annoying as it is, we should just leave time alone and just do what we have been doing for decades even if it makes no sense.
It makes no sense because you don’t get more light – the time change determines when you have that light – more in the morning or more at night. There is still only 24 hours in a day — whether in daylight or standard time.
And yes, daylight saving time will return at 2 a.m. next Sunday, March 14. If the Wyoming Legislature approves House Bill 71 it will go into effect on Nov. 7, 2021, when standard time is set to regularly return.