Over the past few years and especially this year, I have noticed an alarming trend in lack of media coverage of the Utah State Legislature. Many will say the Legislature is covered each day with an article on the front page of at least one section of the paper. But covering a few bills and ignoring the many is not providing a public service. The press has right of access provided by the U.S. Constitution. I believe that right carries with it the responsibility to provide the public the information that access allows.
In the past the voting public, who elects us, could read the bills short titles as introduced and newspapers printed more of the public committee meeting agendas and at one time all of those agendas. At present, the only way the voting public can really keep up with all the bills brought before the public committees hearing, is through Internet access. While the Internet is a vast changing piece of modern technology, it does have its limitations. Not everyone has access to the Internet. In fact, I believe the majority do not have access to the Internet.The following is a suggestion. In addition to more complete press coverage, to improve the public's awareness of upcoming bills on committee agendas, I would encourage local high schools and local libraries create a bulletin board that would have a copy of committee agendas. These would enable the voting public to be better informed of public hearings. The schools and libraries could access these through the Internet or through arrangements to have them faxed.
Improved access to the legislative process and more knowledge can only help the public so much. If you really want the best open process available, you will consider bringing more political balance to state government. The more there is balance between parties, regardless of which party is in the majority, the result will be more open and productive dialogue. Balance will help both parties work together to bring about the best possible government.
Sen. Millie M. Peterson
West Valley City