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Open Legislative Caucuses

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When it comes to doing the people's business, KSL is always in favor of letting sunshine in. Openness in government is a critical component of democracy.

So, while we're not entirely sure what Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's motives are, we agree with his recent suggestion that legislative party caucuses on Utah's Capitol Hill should be open and accessible. Shurtleff, himself a republican, expressed concern that senate republicans routinely caucus behind closed doors. His concern is justified in view of the fact republicans dominate the legislative process.

While the Utah Open Meetings Act requires openness in government, legislators have unnecessarily exempted their own party caucuses from the law. They are allowed to meet together privately and vigorously discuss politically sensitive issues. Although they can't take binding votes, the reality is they can make critical decisions out of public view.

To their credit, house republicans as well as democrats in both chambers opened their caucuses during the recent session. Only the republicans in the senate met privately.

There may well be a long history of closed party caucuses in Utah, as Senate President John Valentine contends. But that doesn't make it the right thing to do, especially for a party that enjoys such a lop-side majority.

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