‘More Government in the Sunshine’ Bill Introduced
State Rep. Tim Jones (R-Eureka) introduced on Feb. 18, House Bill 2210 to amend and make improvements to Missouri’s Open Meetings and Open Records Law. The Missouri Press Association is supporting the bipartisan bill, and thanks Rep. Jones and the 14 co-sponsors.
Co-sponsoring the bill are Republican State Reps. Steve Tilley (Perryville), Mike Thomson (Maryville), Ellen Brandom (Sikeston), Ed Robb (Columbia), David Pearce (Warrensburg), Chuck Portwood (Ballwin), Bob Nance (Excelsior Springs) and Stanley Cox (Sedalia), and Democrat State Reps. Paul LeVota (Independence), John Burnett (Kansas City), Jeff Roorda (Barnhart), Jake Zimmerman (Olivette) and Rachel Storch (St. Louis).
The proposed changes in HB 2210 include:
Records of the Missouri Ethics Commission would be open, except investigative reports by the commission staff will be closed records until a decision is made as to the complaint under investigation. If the commission dismisses the complaint, such investigative reports shall continue to be closed. All meetings of the commission shall be open, except when the commission deliberates a complaint before the commission.
The definition of a public governmental body would be expanded to include any entity that receives at least 51 percent of its annual budget either directly from tax revenue from the public or from public governmental bodies or from the federal government.
The definition of a quasi-public governmental body would be expanded to include private entities that manage a publicly-owned facility or service.
The definition of a “public meeting” would be expanded to include any gathering of newly-elected members of the body who have not formally taken office, with or without current members of the body, discussing public business such that a quorum of the body is present at such meetings.
The definition of “public records” would be expanded to include any lease, sublease, rental agreement or similar document entered into by any public governmental body and any private entity hired to manage a publicly-owned facility or service.
The term “cause of action” would be defined as evidence that a lawsuit has been filed, although not yet served, or correspondence from a party to the public governmental body stating that litigation shall be filed unless certain demands are met.
The bill would limit who can attend a closed meeting: only members of a public governmental body and their attorney and staff assistants, and any person necessary to provide information needed by the public governmental body in regard to the matter being discussed, would be permitted in a closed meeting.
The bill would provide that records should be easily accessible to the public. Computer programs used to manipulate data collected by public governmental bodies shall be such that all data contained in the program may be easily accessed and manipulated by programs commonly available to the public.
The bill would address the burden of proof in litigation on access to criminal records: a court shall find that the person seeking disclosure of an investigative report shall have his/her reasonable costs and attorney fees paid if the court finds the decision of law enforcement not to open the investigative report was substantially unjustified under all relevant circumstances.