Open Meetings Act Passes the Senate

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said he “feels good about where we’re headed” with a bill to strengthen the state’s Open Meetings Act after the bill failed to pass during the 2014 session.

The Alabama Senate voted 30-0 on March 18 to pass the Ward-sponsored bill, which would restore the Open Meetings Act “to its original intent,” according to the Alabama Press Association.

During last year’s session, the bill passed the state Senate, but remained in committee in the House of Representatives until the final days of the session.

“The House did pass it last year, and it came back to the Senate. But we just ran out of time,” Ward said during a March 20 interview. “By moving it so fast so early this year, we are hoping we will have more time to get it passed.”

According to the Press Association, Ward’s legislation became necessary after three Alabama Supreme Court rulings over the past two years severely crippled the existing law.

“Most damaging was the decision that essentially allowed for secret meetings as long as a quorum was not present,” read an APA statement. “In some cases, the public is only witness to a vote because all of the deliberation is done in small, serial meetings prior to a public meeting.”

Ward said one of the primary intents of the bill is to put an end to serial meetings.

“We are really hoping to crack down on those serial meetings and make government more open to everyone,” Ward said. “I think we’ve got an excellent chance of passing this bill this year.”

The House version, HB195, is sponsored Rep. Randy Davis of Daphne. Davis is chairman of the Constitution, Campaign and Election Committee.

“Our Senate is sending a strong message to Alabamians about their commitment to openness and transparency by passing this bill during Sunshine Week,” APA Executive Director Felicia Mason wrote in a statement. “We applaud all Senators who supported this effort, and especially Sen. Ward who has been a staunch sponsor over the past two sessions.”

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