Sen. Walter Felag Jr. showed a committment to transparency and the state open meetings law, reports the Secretary of State's Office.
The Senate committee chaired by Felag (D-Bristol, Tiverton, Warren) complied with the state's open meetings law 100 percent of the time last year, according to a new report from Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis.
Access 2012 reviewed the performance of every House and Senate committee during last year's legislative session. The open meetings law requires most governmental bodies to post meeting notices and agendas at least 48 hours in advance.
Under Felag’s leadership, the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs Committee had a perfect record for the second consecutive year.
“It has always been my goal, as an individual legislator and chairman of the Senate committee, to conduct the people’s business in the most candid, open and transparent way possible," said Felag "I was elected to be here to serve the people of my district and the state, and that can only be accomplished if the people are fully informed of the work that is being done."
While the General Assembly is exempt from the Open Meetings law, the House and the Senate do issue meeting notices in accordance with their own rules. Mollis monitored that activity in order to produce the Access 2012 report.
In developing the data, the Secretary of State’s office reviewed meeting notices and agendas for 438 legislative meetings in 2012. As in previous years, nearly all the violations came in the last days of the session. Fifteen of the 19 total violations occurred during the 48 hours before the General Assembly recessed in the early-morning hours of June 13.
"The legislature’s capacity to give the public at least 48 hours notice as the session winds down is constrained by the compressed timeframe for consideration and the volume of bills that must be addressed," said Mollis.
Broken out by chamber, House compliance was 94 percent and Senate compliance was 97 percent in 2012. Among the some of the legislature’s most prominent committees, House Finance complied 94 percent of the time while Senate Judiciary had a 97 percent compliance rate.
The Secretary of State’s office has issued an annual Access report since 1997.
Mollis gives the public access to legislative meeting notices and agendas on his website and maintains a searchable database of meeting notices, agendas and minutes for most other state and municipal agencies, commissions, boards and departments.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier for Rhode Islanders to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders, visit sos.ri.gov.