Common Cause Maryland is leading a massive effort for greater transparency in every aspect of our government.
Access to government data is a fundamental pillar of an effective democracy. Public access to public documents enables transparency and accountability in government decisions -- and the implementation of those decisions.
Yet Maryland consistently rates poorly on transparency scorecards. In 2012, the State Integrity Investigation gave the state a D-, ranking Maryland 40th among the 50 states. The government scored particularly poorly for public access to information, which was graded an F.
The legislature has taken important steps towards a more open and accessible government. But there is a lot more work to be done.
- The Public Information Act should be administered with clear standards for when documents should be disclosed and the costs of disclosure, and there should be a process to appeal a decision before requiring litigation;
- Government expenditures should be transparent and accountable, and recipients of public funding or contracts should be subject to rigorous disclosure requirements;
- All government data and documents should be available online in a machine-readable, searchable format.
In addition, there are still critical reforms that must be made to improve transparency in the legislative process itself.
- Each bill record online now includes a link to the bill hearing, starting at the moment the bill in question is heard. This is tremendous progress!
- The Senate took a step forward in allowing video streaming of committee voting sessions, but few if any committees have taken advantage of the rule.
- The new electronic sign-in for witnesses at bill hearings will allow more complete bill files if the witness lists are added to the online record in a timely manner. And the next step is allowing submission of written testimony online.
- Subcommittees should be subject to open meetings laws.