Letters to the Editor

Freedom of Information? Hardly: How one person is keeping you in the dark

Government belongs to you, not politicians. You have every right to know what your elected and appointed officials are up to and how government bureaucracies operate at every level, whether they be towns, cities, counties, school boards or state government.

That’s why 40 years ago South Carolina enacted the Freedom of Information Act. It was model legislation for the nation at the time, but it sorely needs updating to plug holes that have been created by those who don’t want to be bothered by citizen inquiries and sunshine on government.

For six years I have championed legislation to enhance the law. It has progressed every session, and this year is its best chance ever. We’re near the finish line with H.3191, but a rookie state senator has decided to block its passage.

Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews arrived at the State House in January to fill the seat left vacant by the tragic shooting death of Sen. Clementa Pinckney . The rookie senator, a Democratic trial lawyer from Walterboro, is using archaic Senate rules that allow one senator to have near veto power by blocking a bill from a vote by the full Senate.

The defiance of Sen. Bright-Matthews was demonstrated in her lone vote of opposition in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed H.3191 by a vote of 17-1.

This has been one of the most thoroughly vetted bills this session. It has had 20 hearings in the House and Senate and by the House’s special ad hoc ethics committee. It passed the House 16 months ago 90-16. If it gets a vote in the Senate, it will likely win approval, and a conference committee will hammer out differences created by Senate amendments.

There are only a few legislative days left in this session. Good government needs your help.

Please take a moment today to call or write Sen. Bright-Mathews and respectfully request she stop blocking improvements to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. I’m not certain if she personally reads her government emails (MargieBrightMatthews@SCSenate.gov), but it’s worth sending her a note. It would be more effective to call to her office (843-549-6028). Give her assistant the message:

Drop your opposition and let the FOIA legislation be voted on by the Senate.”

Please help me get this important bill across the finish line. If we fail, we’ll have to start all over again next year. You deserve access today. Thank you in advance for your help.

Rep. Bill Taylor