This week, March 14 to 20, is especially sunny, with the approaching vernal equinox on Saturday, March 20.

It’s also a little brighter with the constant efforts of citizens and organizations intent on keeping government business transparent. Besides moving toward spring, this is Sunshine Week, a national initiative promoting the public’s right to know and open government.

On March 16 in Augusta, a laudable collaboration of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Maine Civil Liberties Union and the Maine Press Association presented model legislation to strengthen Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

Maine’s laws governing public access are broad, but a weakness lies in the lack of deadlines, according to the Heritage Policy Center. For instance, if a taxpayer requests a document from a state agency or town office, those entities have five days to acknowledge the request, but there is no deadline, other than a “reasonable amount of time.”

“That reasonable amount of time could be six months or a year,” said Chris Cinquemani of the policy center. “Transparency without a deadline is not really transparency at all.”

Those deadlines establish clear protocol, with a 20-day period in which to comply.

This is not unreasonable, and just as important, it reinforces the principles of participatory democracy.

“We cannot be content with the status quo,” said Shenna Bellows, director of the MCLU. “We have to make sure we are doing everything possible to improve access to government.”

Sunshine Week was initiated in 2002 in the sunshine state of Florida, where lawmakers were writing exemptions to that state’s public records law. From there, the effort gathered momentum.

The health of culture depends on public awareness, and while it is incumbent on citizens to participate, it is equally incumbent on government — federal, state, county, local — to remember that taxpayers are the ultimate stockholders.

There has been a trend in recent years for volunteer committees to spin off into nonprofits, whose meetings are not, for the most part, governed by legislation. No one questions their good intentions, but increasingly, conversations about the economy, potential business activity, loan and grant activity and more are discussed behind closed doors.

Groups that are funded in any part by taxpayers, either directly through a vote at town meeting, or by state or federal grants, should hold all meetings in public. If there is proprietary business under discussion, for example, a new company seeking startup help or real estate negotiations, then a sequestered executive session may be in order, with a well articulated reason publicly stated beforehand.

These quasi-public 501C(3)s must be held to the same level of public accountability as our selectmen, school boards and commissioners.

Furthermore, we must be equally diligent in ensuring that executive sessions convened by school and municipal committees are entered for a clear purpose and that citation of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act indicating the precise nature of the business is clearly stated.

Sunshine Week embodies the principles of participation, that it is vital for the public — you, us, them — to play a role in how communities function and evolve. Information, and access to information, are key to being a better participant.