ALEC Principles of Legislative Transparency Exposed

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The ALEC Principles of Legislative Transparency was considered by ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force at the 2011 Annual Meeting on August 4, 2011. This bill was part of the ALEC task force agenda between 2010 and 2012, but due to incomplete information, it is not known if the bill passed in a vote by legislators and lobbyists at ALEC task force meetings, if ALEC sought to distance itself from the bill as the public increased scrutiny of its pay-to-play activities, or if key operative language from the bill has been introduced by an ALEC legislator in a state legislature in the ensuing period or became binding law.

ALEC Draft Bill Text

ALEC affirms that transparency and public disclosure in the legislative process is vital to a representative democracy. With one of the fundamental goals of public hearings being to respectfully hear from the public so that citizens are provided the opportunity to comment on proposed changes to state law, lawmakers should strive to provide adequate notice before public hearings or votes occur so that citizens are able to participate in the legislative process in a meaningful way.

Guiding principles of legislative transparency

The fundamental principles presented here provide guidance for a transparent legislative process to help inform the debate while providing citizens the opportunity to be heard on the laws that will impact their lives.

  • Details of bills should be publicly available before legislative action – Before a legislative committee or body of the Legislature takes action on legislation, the details being considered should be made publicly available with as much advance notice as possible. Preferably at least seventy-two hours notice of bill details and planned legislative action should be provided.
  • Bills should receive a public hearing before legislative action is taken – To help ensure adequate public debate, legislative actions should not take place on bills until the version being acted on has been subject to a public hearing that was scheduled with adequate public notice.
  • Final passage of bills should be delayed until adequate time has been provided for public review – Before a body of the Legislature takes action on a bill for final passage, the details should be made available to lawmakers and the public for at least twenty-four hours beforehand.
  • Bills should not combine unrelated subjects or utilize placeholder titles – Lawmakers should keep bills focused on germane topics and not utilize blank or placeholder titles that deprive the public from knowing the full details of a proposal until after the opportunity for public hearing and comment has occurred. The public should be provided the opportunity to comment on the actual proposed language and details to be considered.