February 6, 2010
by Ted Land
Friday, February 5, 2010
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The release of thousands of e-mails from former Gov. Sarah Palin's administration once again raises the question: where does the state draw the line on personal e-mail use when it comes to state business?
There are some bills making their way through the Legislature which address this very issue.
There is no state law requiring that state business be conducted using state e-mail accounts. But Gov. Sean Parnell has made it his administration's policy to use public accounts -- and some state lawmakers want to ensure it stays that way in future administrations.
Rep. Mike Doogan introduced House Bill 195 last year, which would ban public officials from communicating on state business using private email. That bill remains in the State Affairs and Judiciary committees, and has not gained momentum.
Sen. Johnny Ellis has a very similar bill, Senate Bill 249, which would require state business to be conducted using state communication systems, like e-mail and phone. The bill would also require the state to make copies of public documents available to residents at a reasonable fee.
"I didn't follow the personalities," Ellis said. "I didn't follow the politics, didn't follow the court cases, but this has been a concern. So I want to ignore what's in the past and sort of move forward."
Fellow Sen. John Coghill says it's a matter of public trust, and thinks the line should be drawn where simple discussion turns into something more.
"There is some reasonable discussion that if you want to have a private discussion with somebody and it happens to be a public policy matter, you should have the right to do that," Coghill said. "But if you're transacting business that is decision-based, then it should be out in the open because it's a public trust."
With several larger issues awaiting consideration, many lawmakers are skeptical about having time to make any significant progress on these bills this year. Some say there are bigger fish to fry.
Contact Ted Land at email@example.com
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