This past week gave us a perfect look at the law of unintended consequences, and the difference between public servants and buck-passing politicians.
First, the public servants: Georgia officials this year worked to strengthen the state’s open meetings and open records laws.
They collaborated with governments and with such entities as the Georgia Press Association, compromised on a few things, and in the end produced a tougher law that in most cases lets more sunshine into government operations.
The unintended consequence comes from provisions designed to help curb identity theft.
After a seminar on the topic, Columbia County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris discovered that the sheriff’s office Web site, which provides instant public access to police incident reports and arrest records, didn’t comply with those changes.
Their computer system, Morris explained, wouldn’t allow redaction of the now-restricted information from electronic reports, forcing them to shut down access.
Rather than just blame the state and force the public to trek to the records bureau in Appling to review incident reports, however, Morris has been communicating with their computer vendor and with state officials to find a way to fix the problem.
Our newspaper staffers review those reports constantly, and we’ve gotten spoiled to their ease of use. It would be a real shame if a law designed to provide more access instead makes access more difficult.
As for those buck-passers, look no further than Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and the rest of the politicians who took a state fly-around this past week to brag about their work in the recent session.
Morris News Service Atlanta Bureau Chief Walter Jones found out those lawmakers financed their jaunt with campaign money, not taxpayer funds. That’s about the only good thing from the preening back-patting tour.
The worst part was when they bragged about how they’d made getting a driver’s license more secure – and then quickly blamed the bureaucrats at the Department of Driver Services for the long lines that resulted.
Have you tried to get a new license lately? You have to take an ID, such as a passport; your original Social Security card; and two documents to prove your residence. That paperwork overkill is creating the long lines.
The flying politicians said the agency should have done more to tell people about the changes. Funny; I don’t recall their new law including a sack of money to pay for marketing. I’m guessing the bureaucrats didn’t have access to fat-cat campaign contributions to pay for them to fly around the state and talk about it, either.
I’m just glad my license doesn’t expire for five more years. I probably should go ahead and get in line.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/