Maine’s Freedom of Access Act is intended to open government by guaranteeing access to “public records” and “public proceedings” of all government bodies and agencies. It states that public notice is required for all proceedings and that public notice must be given in ample time to allow public attendance.

Earlier this year, Maine’s Legislature again suspended —until the end of the legislative session — the two-week notice requirement for advertising public hearings on bills referred to committees. Notices of all public hearings and work sessions continued to be posted only on the Legislature’s website and in committee meeting rooms. This has become a routine time-management tool used by legislative leaders at the expense of the public.

While the purpose of this practice is to help ensure the Legislature can adjourn on time, the practice must stop. It is un-democratic, unethical and self-serving.

People who do not have access to the Internet are eliminated from participation in committee hearings on introduced bills. Notices of some public hearings also violated the two-week publishing period for these hearings. In some instances, notices were published only two working days prior to the hearing. That practice violates one of the democratic principles of public participation in the governance of state matters by limiting the opportunity for input in decisions affecting the public.

We believe public participation is vital to make government representative of the people. We urge the Legislature to adhere to open government laws. For democracy to work, it’s important to include — not exclude — the public voice.

Bob Croce, Dedham

Joseph Pickering, Bangor

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