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House Bill 530 — Executive sessions

House Bill 530 — Executive sessions

Lindsay Atkinson
February 26, 2020

Bill description: HB 530 would add another reason for which bodies of elected representatives can go into private, executive session.

Rating: -1

Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency or accountability? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability? 

In Idaho, a group of elected representatives can go into executive session to discuss matters without the public being there. Executive sessions are not open to the public, and records from the session do not have to be released under public records law. 

Groups of elected representatives can only go into executive session for very specific reasons laid out in law. HB 530 would add another reason. Elected officials could go into executive session “to consult with a legal adviser, real estate professional, or appraiser for the sole purpose of discussing minimal acceptable bid amounts for the sale of real property.”

There should be very limited reasons for which elected officials can go into executive session. Since these meetings are exempt from the public record, it is impossible for the public to know what happens there, removing a key to holding the government responsible. These sessions can be abused as the state saw last summer, when audio from an executive session held by the Public Charter School Commission was leaked. If this audio had never been leaked, nobody would know that the commission may have been violating open meeting laws by discussing matters unrelated to the purpose of their executive session. The more reasons that elected officials can use to justify an executive session,  the greater potential for the public to miss out on a discussion that should be before the public eye.


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