Sunshine Law is a light in the dark; let’s make sure to keep it on – St. Louis Call Newspapers
The Missouri government is once again making an effort to undermine the state’s free press, this time by targeting its Sunshine Law.
The Sunshine Law requires governmental bodies to produce documents and records when requested and must do so in a timely manner. The Sunshine Law is fundamental for watchdogs and constituents alike who want to keep public officials honest.
However, Gov. Mike Parson has identified reform of Missouri’s Sunshine Law as a top priority for 2022 – and not for the better.
The Missouri Independent first reported that Parson’s proposed changes would make it easier for governments to withhold documents, while also allowing governments to charge more to review requested documents.
This move by Parson doesn’t come out of nowhere – the Missouri Supreme Court decided last year that charging for legal review of document requests did not fall under the Sunshine Law and that the practice should cease.
According to reporting from the Missouri Independent, Parson’s proposal would allow government agencies to charge fees for the time attorneys spend reviewing requested records. Documents obtained by a reporter through a Sunshine Law request call the proposed changes “Good Government” reforms and would “benefit political subdivisions, the legislature and state government.”
The editorial board here at The Call may be old-fashioned but we believe good government is a transparent government that works in the interest of the people. Parson’s proposal sounds like anything but good, transparent government. The changes may benefit the people in power, but they don’t benefit the people who voted them into those positions.
The Sunshine Law is one of the most important tools the public has for government transparency. We encourage lawmakers to strengthen the Sunshine Law and to reject proposals that make it weaker.
The website “Save Missouri’s Sunshine Law,” which was launched earlier this month by attorney Elad Gross, states “Missouri’s Sunshine Law promotes transparency so we can hold our elected officials accountable to us. We cannot let these politicians benefit themselves and lock us out of our government.”
We couldn’t agree more.