The amendment in H.B. 445 cannot stand. While the intentions of the bill are good and echo much of what voters passed as Clean Missouri in November, the amendment weakens our current Sunshine Law. It is far too broad. It would allow basically all conversations our legislators and other government officials -- even school boards! -- have be kept from us. That does not make the state of Missouri stronger. That encourages dishonesty and unethical behavior, the absolute opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.
Please, go back to the drawing board and try again. This law cannot stand as currently written.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Missouri voters took that to heart last November when they passed Clean Missouri with 62 percent of the vote. Why is the Missouri legislature now trying to undermine the will of their voters? We need transparency in our government.
We’ve seen how hidden communications made former Governor Eric Greitens the subject of an investigation. We’ve seen how other hidden communications made Senator Josh Hawley the subject of investigation. Government officials are human. They are not infallible. When there is a possibility their actions or words can become public, they tend to make better choices. To take away that accountability to voters is wrong. When the public and our local news organizations are unable to see what happens behind closed doors, it is the people of the state of Missouri that suffer.
Exempting any document made by or given to a lawmaker that has advice, recommendations or opinions from Sunshine law requests is a disservice to the people of the state of Missouri. We need more transparency. Not less.
“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” -- Patrick Henry
Transparency in government is good for all of us. It is good for our government officials in that it keeps our officials honest and acting in the best interest of the public. It is good for the public in that it strengthens trust in their government officials and holds those officials accountable to those they serve.
The amendment to H.B. 445 that would exempt from Sunshine Law requests any document made by or given to a lawmaker that has advice, recommendations or opinions is WRONG. To keep information out of the hands of public, when it is not a matter of a security risk or of releasing personal, identifying information, is WRONG. It goes too far, and the Missouri legislature needs to try again.
Thursday, February 7, 2019
On motion of Representative Dogan, HB 445 was read the third time and passed by the
ABSENT WITH LEAVE: 011
Speaker Haahr declared the bill passed.