A legislator and his cameras

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Safer Idaho roads and bridges.

Sensible tax policies that balance essential services for citizens and a desire for limited government.

Moves that would lead to more and better jobs, Idaho businesses growing and prospering.

In the late days of the Idaho 2017 legislative session, one might think these issues would be at the top of the priority list. But if one is looking at Rep. Vito Barbieri from Dalton Gardens, one would be wrong.

What Vito’s focused on is an abortion-related matter — asking a doctor during open testimony if a gynecological exam can be done by a woman swallowing a small camera.

No, wait. He did that during the 2015 session. This session, Barbieri is focused on another kind of camera. This one is the camera that can show you what Barbieri and other legislators are doing.

Last week, Barbieri introduced House Bill 233, which would exempt communication among legislators from the state’s public record laws. Barbieri wants emails, texts and other forms of communication not just between legislators, but between legislators and private citizens, hidden from disclosure in public record requests.

Barbieri didn’t dream this up all on his own. Other governments are creeping steadily toward greater secrecy, weaving thicker veils separating them from the people they’re supposed to be serving. Barbieri and his ilk might think they’re striking a blow against media, which no doubt would raise cheers in some quarters of modern day America. But what they’re striking a blow against is you. You, Mr./Ms./Mrs. Idaho Citizen, now have the right to ask for a wide array of public records, including the public-owned email of elected officials. Vito Barbieri wants to take that right away from you.

Transparency not only helps the public know what’s really going on, but also encourages public officials to do what’s right. Secrecy is protected in restricted quarters already covered by Idaho public record and open meeting laws, areas that include discussion of personnel matters and possible real estate transactions. Otherwise, the advice your mother or father may have passed on to you still applies: Behave like even your private actions are going to be disclosed on the front page of the newspaper.

Vito Barbieri prefers that some of the official work he and other legislators are doing is published with invisible ink. He wants your lights dimmed and the camera turned off unless and until he says otherwise.

Perhaps there’s another anatomy lesson in there somewhere.

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