We note with more than a little interest that the Legislature, in its vast wisdom, has decided to bar the news media from the state House and Senate chambers during the upcoming legislative session.
The public, just for good measure, is to be barred, too, under a set of stringent, new anti-COVID-19 rules adopted by the joint House-Senate Legislative Council.
When we first read of it, we thought for certain it was joke. It has been our experience that nothing good – nothing – comes of barring the news media, or the general public for that matter, from public meetings, turning them into playgrounds for really, really bad ideas and no accountability.
Saying such a ban is necessary is indefensible. From where we sit, a few reporters wearing masks and following the same health rules as lawmakers certainly would add little, if any, more COVID risk than a chamber of 20 or 40 yakking legislators and their attendant aides and hangers-on.
Too often, in our experience, outside influences are used as excuses to shield lawmakers from the prying, pesky eyes of the news media, but a free nation requires a free press. A free press requires, as a minimum, open access to public meetings.
It is understandable, with the issues facing the upcoming Legislature – the budget deficit, the Permanent Fund dividend, taxes – that some lawmakers would be tickled pink if the press took a hike while the political sausage is being made. But pretending it is because of COVID-19 just will not fly.
What they apparently want are the keys to the clown car, with nobody watching.
A very bad idea.