Sunshine laws in South Carolina need bigger rays

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There is a little-known law in South Carolina called the Sunshine Law. Its very name suggests that the sun always shine onto the Palmetto State’s residents, but the law itself is meant to keep our government and elected leaders in check.

The law is a national one, and it’s also one that is in effect in South Carolina. It requires that the actions of government bodies be transparent to the public. It also requires that these groups provide documentation about how money is being spent: taxpayer money is your money, so you should know where it is going and why. The law also promotes ethics and is meant to help prevent fraud and corruption – all by allowing you, the public, to see what is happening. Hence, the sun is shining onto everything our government does.

It’s the same law that lets newspapers and any resident ask for documentation from elected bodies, like Colleton County Council. Perhaps you’ve heard of a Freedom of Information request? It’s the same thing as a sunshine law, and it’s meant to let you, the taxpayer and voter, know every detail of what’s happening behind closed doors.

This law applies to almost every elected body that works for you: the school board, county council, city groups, a hospital that is run by a non-profit board, etc. Where there is public interest and public money, the sun is meant to shine onto that and provide transparency.

Even though this law is in place, there are still those who try to skirt around it and keep residents in the dark about what they do. Earlier this year, the S.C. Press Association released research saying some government bodies in South Carolina, particularly several police departments in Charleston, were caught purposefully trying to hide information from the public.

To keep agencies in check, the S.C. Press Association is asking that residents in South Carolina email their representatives and encourage that more teeth be put into the law. This would let groups or government bodies who violate the law to be held more accountable and not just get a slap on the wrist.

Let’s work together to keep the sunshine shining on our state. The actions of governments have to be transparent. They can’t hide documents or vote in secret or spend money without the taxpayers knowing why. The people are in charge and the Sunshine Laws make sure that the government bodies work for the people, and not the other way around.


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