Government of the people, by the people and for the people has long been an American credo. Nowhere is there mention of government of the developers, by the developers and for the developers in any of the nation's grand documents.
The Georgia General Assembly seems willing to adopt such a clause into its credo with a bill allowing government agencies to deal with potential business developers outside of the public purview. In other words, economic-development authorities could secretly send business offers to companies with the public having no knowledge until such an action is already a "done deal."
The Georgia House of Representatives has already passed this bill. It is now being considered by the state Senate.
We would urge state senators to reject this bill which is a slap in the face to the American concept of open government. People deserve the right to know what may or may not be coming to their community and what is being offered from the public till to bring businesses to town.
Republican Rep. Ron Stephens, the bill's House sponsor, claims public-access laws hurt Georgia because businesses do not want negotiations open to public scrutiny. He also claims other states use Georgia's open records to steal away Georgia's potential business opportunities.
Stephens makes a compelling case but shielding negotiations from public view is not the answer to Georgia's economic development. "This will protect our economic playbook from our competitors," Stephens says. We think this bill endangers the people's right to view government's actions as an open playbook.
Economic development is good for both Georgia's business and citizens. But no government agency should ever be able to legally say that economic development is none of the public's business.