Transparency is important! Unless you’re a legislator

What if law enforcement suspected someone of violating the law and subpoenaed his emails. Should investigators be able to get them? I think most people would say yes.

Should North Carolina’s citizens know the thought process that legislators go through as they write laws. I think most people would say yes to that, too.

Now, attorneys are arguing whether North Carolina lawmakers have to turn over emails that might show their communications while writing the state’s voter ID law. You remember that one, right? That’s the law that the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled had “discriminatory intent” as a motivating factor. As in, discriminating against minorities.

It was the law that replaced the 2013 voter ID law struck down by the courts for targeting “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

I get the sense there may be a pattern guiding lawmakers here.

The News & Observer explains why this is a legal question: “When state lawmakers wrote North Carolina’s public records laws decades ago, they not only exempted themselves from those rules but also gave themselves extra protections, called ‘legislative privilege.’ That allows them to refuse to testify or turn over documents in court cases, even when other people or businesses wouldn’t be able to refuse.”

You might think that if race wasn’t part of their discussion, they would have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. In truth, when talking about privacy, I think that’s a bogus argument. It’s not the government’s business.

But here, we’re discussing public policy conducted by lawmakers who are paid by N.C. taxpayers. I think it is fair to discover what motivated their thinking when writing a law that courts have said purposely discriminate against a class of citizens. You might even think that they would want to release their emails to prove that race was not a motivating factor.

Oh, wait. The statutes say they don’t have to if they don’t want to. And they don’t want to so there. Read the full story.