Senate bill 500 states, "A member of the General Assembly shall not be entitled to compensation or reimbursement for expenses for attendance or services performed at a conference for which the conference agenda or materials are not readily available to the public." It unanimously passed the Senate.
Some of our legislators may have been attending highly secretive meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on the taxpayer's dime. Since Virginia's Open Meetings Law already requires that legislators not attend meetings in which public business is discussed without those meetings being open to the public, one wonders how our legislators could attend any secretive meeting in which public business was discussed.
There is an exemption for informal gatherings of legislators, and I guess that those legislators who have attended ALEC meetings with corporations discussing the creation of laws to be passed in Virginia think these gatherings somehow fall under that exemption. But I choose to differ because when their attendance requires my tax dollars as reimbursement for expenses, it becomes rather formal. I mean they have to fill out a formal report of their expenses don't they? And you have to have a formal invitation to attend, right?
Of course, I do not see why any of our legislators would want, let alone need, to meet in secret with corporations and other legislators. But since they seem to think that is useful for some purpose unknowable to the public, they certainly should not get any of our tax money to do it. So, SB 500 is a no brainer and should be supported by our delegate, Todd Gilbert.
As I write, the bill sits in the House Rules Committee chaired by Del. Bill Howell, speaker of the house, and a member of the board of directors of ALEC. Here's hoping the House does the right thing.
Michael Cash, Fort Valley