I. STATUTE -- BASIC APPLICATION.

Alaska's Open Meetings Act (OMA) was enacted in 1959 as part of the Administrative Procedures Act adopted by the first legislature after statehood. A.S. 44.62.310. Its broad language was a comprehensive mandate that meetings of public agencies be open to the public. In 1972, the legislature bolstered the OMA by adding to it a strong statement of purpose, as follows:

AS 44.62.312. State policy regarding meetings.

(a) It is the policy of the state that

(1) the governmental units mentioned in AS 44.62.310(a) exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business;

(2) it is the intent of the law that actions of those units be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly;

(3) the people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them;

(4) the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know;

(5) the people's right to remain informed shall be protected so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

* * * *

(b) AS 44.62.310(c)(1) shall be construed narrowly in order to effectuate the policy stated in (a) of this section and avoid unnecessary executive sessions.

AS 44.62.312. The Alaska Supreme Court has liberally construed the OMA, in order to give full effect to the letter and spirit of the law. The legislature amended the OMA in 1994 in several significant respects. Chief among these were a definition of the previously undefined term "meeting." A few of the amendments weakened the force of the Act, e.g., by making it less likely that violations will be remedied, or reducing the law's application to advisory groups. Most clarified or codified existing interpretations of the OMA. The legislature also generally reaffirmed the commitment to a strong right of public access to the affairs of government by revising and strengthening the final subsection of the statute to read: "AS 44.62.310(c) [the provision governing executive sessions] and (d) [the subsection defining what gatherings are exempt from coverage of the OMA altogether] shall be construed narrowly in order to effectuate the policy [statement of the Open Meetings Act] and to avoid exemptions from open meetings requirements and unnecessary executive sessions."