Legislation may help us step into more sunshine
Some people just squint when they come into the bright sunshine, others celebrate its warmth. It’s Sunshine Week March 16-22 and the Missouri Press Association joins newspapers from across Missouri and throughout the nation to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Four recently published articles focus on the importance of public access to information, holding government accountable, and legislation being considered to better enforce the sunshine law.
- First, a Columbia Daily Tribune editorial urges support for a new law, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, that would make improvements to Missouri’s Sunshine Law that would retain larger fines for "purposeful" violations but would allow small-fine application without having to prove "knowing" violations. version
- In the second article, from the St. Joseph News-Press, SB843 is upheld as a way to prevent public officials from violating one or more provisions of the sunshine law and then "contend the occurrence was inadvertent, unintentional and, as a result, not subject to penalty."
- An Associated Press article reports that the new legislation also would bar government agencies from charging for time spent reviewing whether requested documents are exempt from disclosure. It would require the courts order the government to pay attorney fees when a complaint about a sunshine law violation is sustained.
- Finally, a St.LouisPublicRadio piece quoted Missouri Press Association consulting attorney on First Amendment matters, Jean Maneke, in reference to the proposed law: "Higher fines just cause courts to be a little more reticent to impose them. I’m beginning to think the way to enforce the law is to lower the fines so that it’s just enough to get someone’s attention. [Open government] is just the foundation of basic good government…It prevents corruption."
To read the entire text of any or all of these stories visit mopress.com by clicking this link: