Rep. Jones files omnibus bill

Rep. Tim Jones (R-Eureka) has filed an omnibus bill to strengthen Missouri’s open meetings and open records law, the Sunshine Law. House Bill 316, filed Jan. 15, contains several provisions, including requirements opening to the public most records and meetings of the Missouri Ethics Commission. The bill specifies that investigative reports prepared by Ethics Commission staff would be closed records until a decision is made by the commission regarding the complaint under investigation. If the commission would decide to dismiss the complaint, reports related to the complain would continue to be closed records. All meetings of the commission would be open, except for closed meetings when the commission deliberates a complaint. Rep. Jones gathered a bipartisan group of 18 co-sponsors for the bill. The co-sponsors include Rep. David Sater (R-Cassville), Rep. Mark Parkinson (R-St. Charles), Rep. Kenny Jones (R-Clarksburg), Rep. Jeff Grisamore (R-Lee’s Summit), Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff), Rep. Rodney Schad (R-Versailles), Rep. Walt Bivins (R-St. Louis), Rep. Shane Schoeller (R-Willard), Rep. Mike Talboy (D-Kansas City), Rep. Mary Still (D-Columbia), Rep. Jake Zimmerman (D-Olivette), Rep. John Burnett (D-Kansas City), Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst (R- Ballwin), Rep. Doug Funderburk (R-St. Peters), Rep. Tim Meadows (D-Imperial), Rep. Mike Corcoran (D-St. Ann), Rep. Rachel Storch (D-St. Louis) and Rep. Ron Casey (D-Crystal City). Among House Bill 316’s provisions, the proposal: 1. Requires most records and meetings of the Missouri Ethics Commission to be open. 2. Specifies that an association is covered by the Sunshine Law if it receives public funding through dues paid by a public governmental body or its members. 3. Defines “public meeting” to include any gathering of newly elected members of a public governmental body who have not formally taken office, but are meeting to discuss public business, with or without current members of the body, when a quorum is present. 4. Requires a notice to the public of a meeting to be extended from 24 hours’ advance notice to five days’ advance notice when the public governmental body would be considering or voting on a fee or tax increase, eminent domain, zoning, transportation development district or tax increment financing issue. 5. Defines the term “cause of action” in an exemption to the law as when “a lawsuit has been filed, regardless of whether service of process has been completed, or correspondence from a party to the body stating that litigation shall be filed unless certain demands are met.” 6. Limits persons attending closed meetings of a public governmental body to members, their attorneys, staff members and any necessary witnesses. 7. Requires data-processing programs used by state and local governments to allow for copying data easily accessed by software programs commonly available to the public. 8. Requires reasonable attorney fees be paid to a party successfully seeking disclosure of an investigative report compiled by law enforcement. — Missouri Press Association

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