New law promotes more open government

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Following this year’s regular session of the West Virginia Legislature, there was plenty of debate about what lawmakers in Charleston did and did not do. Some saw legislation coming out of the newly Republican-controlled legislature as steps backward, while others argued that legislators pushed through badly needed bills.

In terms of the public’s interest, though, it’s clear lawmakers did make important progress on one topic: access to public records. And it came in surprising fashion: The legislation that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law last week started out focused on eliminating some information from public view.

As first introduced, House Bill 2636 had one purpose. That was to exempt applications for permits to carry concealed weapons from release under the state’s public records act. Advocates for the bill argued that releasing the names and addresses of permit-holders violated their privacy and would make them targets of criminals seeking to steal weapons.

That language remained in the bill, but provisions from another piece of legislation sponsored by House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, were added to it. The result, on balance, was a victory for advocates of more open government…

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