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Story Archives: People have right to 'gawk,' too
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|People have right to 'gawk,' too|
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts the number of people living in the United States.
Besides helping determine how federal appropriations are doled out by the Congress of the United States, the census count is used to craft district boundaries for representatives of local governing bodies, state legislatures and congressional districts in every state in the nation. In some states, the census count dictates the boundaries for other governing bodies in the state. The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education comes to mind.
In most states, like Louisiana, the Legislature is charged with drawing district boundaries. It's commonly called reapportionment.
Reapportionment is very important, too.
That's why we were more than disturbed by Grambling Rep. Rick Gallot's decision to conduct closed-door meetings over a two-day period later this week to discuss reapportionment in Louisiana, though the Legislature won't tackle it in earnest until 2011, or roughly one year following the 2010 census. The closed-door sessions will be held Thursday and Friday in Alexandria. The taxpayers will pick up the tab for the meetings, too.
Gallot is chairman of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee. His committee, as well as the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, is charged with handling reapportionment legislation. Sen. Robert Kostelka of Monroe is chairman of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Gallot says the meetings are needed. They are needed, according to Gallot, because few state lawmakers served in the Legislature the last time reapportionment was tackled.
To his credit, Kostelka says he objects to the committees meeting behind closed doors, void of the public's and media's oversight. However, Kostelka will attend those closed-door get-togethers because, according to Kostelka, he doesn't want to be left out of the loop, so to speak.
To his discredit, Gallot defended his decision. Moreover, Gallot says criticism of his call for the committees to meet in private was "completely unfounded."
Gallot's comment about criticism of his decision as being "completely unfounded" was surprising. It was surprising because Gallot has a long track record of staunchly defending the public's right to know. More specific, the Louisiana Press Association, to which this newspaper belongs, has enjoyed a good relationship with Gallot for years, especially concerning legislation advocated by the LPA in which the public's right to know was attacked by special interests that aimed to restrict the public's right to know.
While we were caught flat-footed, if you will, over Gallot's comment, we were not surprised in the least with Rep. Rosalind Jones' take on the closed-door sessions to discuss reapportionment.
"I think the public should be excited that the committee is willing to learn as much as we can about the process," Jones told The (Monroe) News-Star about the closed-door meetings she will attend as a member of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"It's really a classroom exercise," Jones said. "I don't see any great benefit in letting the public come in just to gawk."
Maybe Jones should remind herself that the people have a right to witness and provide input on important matters such as reapportionment.
The people have a right to "gawk,' too, especially when the people are paying for lawmakers to meet.