What you don’t know can hurt you

Editorial from the Twin Falls Times-News

A year after the Idaho Legislature closed information about who holds hunting and fishing licenses in Idaho to the public, the trend toward secrecy seems to be accelerating in this state and beyond.

On Monday, the Idaho House of Representatives passed legislation that would make nutrient management plans by dairies confidential.

House Bill 269 would define nutrient management as a trade secret and keep the plans out of the public domain. That’s wrong, because information about waste management is important to protecting the environment and public health.

The Utah Legislature recently passed legislation limiting access to most electronic communication — instant messages, voicemail, text messages, video chat, etc. — by government officials. That makes it easy for them to do all sorts of backroom deals face-to-face using Skype, or even phone texts.

The bill also sharply raised fees for citizens making public-records requests.

Basically, Utah has shifted the burden of proof about whether records are open or not to those trying to get the information.

That’s a mistake. You, as a taxpayer, have a vested interest in knowing what your government — and your neighbors whose activities potentially endanger your health and economic well-being — are doing.

For example, the Gooding County Planning and Zoning Commission needs to review nutrient management plans to assure that duplicate fields are not being applied with manure from confined animal feeding operations, according to state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum.

That, it seems to us, is the essence of local control. Without it, county commissioners and planners have their hands tied.

The Senate should scrap HB 269.

Editorial from the Twin Falls Times-News

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