Sunshine Law Modifications

SB 122

Sponsored by Senator Schaefer (R), District 19
1/30/2013: Hearing Conducted S Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
2/4/2013: Voted Do Pass S Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee

Modifies provisions relating to Missouri’s open records law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law.
The definition of a “public record” is modified to include any lease, sublease, or similar rental instrument entered into by a public body, or any other agreement for the rental, construction, or renovation of a facility.

Currently, public bodies must provide notice of meetings to members of the news media who request such notices. This act requires the public body to also provide notice to any member of the public who requests it. Currently, a public body must provide 24 hours notice of a meeting. This act changes the time to 48 hours, with the exception of the General Assembly which must continue to provide 24 hours notice. Minutes of meetings must reflect the closed meeting discussions, but shall not require the disclosure of properly closed records.

The act modifies provisions regarding bases for closing a meeting or record. Public disclosure in an open meeting is required for certain legal matters upon final disposition. Such disclosure shall be done orally or in writing and must occur at the next scheduled open meeting of the body, or at the resumption of a recessed open meeting. When a body closes a meeting or record relating to a “cause of action”, the body must have received evidence that a lawsuit has been filed or shall have correspondence indicating a lawsuit shall be filed. Certain bases for closure relating to operational guidelines and security systems expired on December 31, 2012. This act extends the sunset to December 31, 2017.

If a public body closes a meeting, only members of the body, their attorney and staff assistants, as well as any person necessary to provide information, shall be permitted in the meeting.
The custodian of records for a public body is encouraged to create and maintain an index of all public records maintained by the body.

In actions against a public body for violations of the Sunshine Law, current law requires the person bringing the action to demonstrate that the body is subject to the Sunshine Law and held a closed meeting. Then the burden is on the body to demonstrate compliance with the Law. This act removes this language and provides that there is a presumption that a meeting, record, or vote is open to the public. The burden is on the body to prove that such meeting, record, or vote may be closed. Currently, a knowing violation of the Sunshine Law subjects the body or member to a civil penalty of up to $1,000. This act removes the “knowing” element and lessens the fine to $100. For such violations, the court shall, rather than may, order the payment of costs and attorneys fees to the party establishing the violation. Also, this act removes the ability of a public body to seek the formal opinion of the Attorney General or an attorney for the public body when it is in doubt about the legality of closing a meeting.

In actions seeking disclosure of an investigative report of a law enforcement agency, the court shall, rather than may, award costs and attorneys fees if it finds the decision of the law enforcement agency not to open the report was substantially unjustified.
This act contains an emergency clause for the section relating to closure of certain records, meetings, and votes.

This act is similar to SB 764 (2012) and HB 33 (2013).

HCS HBs 256, 33 & 305

Sponsored by Representative Jones (R), District 50
2/14/13: Reported to the Senate and First Read (S)
2/20/2013: Second read and referred: Senate Judiciary and
Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence(S)
3/22/2013: Public Hearing Scheduled (S) – Monday, March 25, 2013 upon recess or evening adjournment, Senate Lounge
3/25/2013: Public Hearing Held (S)

Open meetings and records law
COMMITTEE OF ORIGIN: Committee on General Laws

This substitute repeals the expiration date of the provision regarding the exemption from the Open Meetings and Records Law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law, of the disclosure of the operational guidelines, policies, and specific response plans by any public agency responsible for law enforcement, public safety, first response, or public health for use in responding or preventing any critical incident that is terrorist in nature and has the potential to endanger individual or public safety or health. However, the bill specifies that financial records related to the procurement of or expenditures relating to the operational guidelines, policies or plans purchased with public funds will be open. When seeking to close information under this exception, the public governmental body must affirmatively state in writing that disclosure would impair the body’s ability to protect the security or safety of persons or real property and that the public interest in nondisclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure of the records.

The substitute also repeals the expiration date of the provision regarding the exemption from the law for existing or proposed security systems and structural plans of real property owned or leased by a public governmental body and information that is voluntarily submitted by a nonpublic entity owning or operating an infrastructure to any public governmental body for use by that body to devise plans for the protection of that infrastructure, the public disclosure of which would threaten public safety. However, nothing in this exception is deemed to include video from cameras outside the Governor’s office in the Capitol. The substitute exempts the portion of a record that identifies security systems, access codes, or authorization codes for security systems of real property from the Open Meetings and Records Law. The substitute specifies that any records or flight logs pertaining to a flight or request for a flight, after the flight has occurred, by an elected member of the Executive or Legislative branch of government must be an open public record under the Open Meetings and Records Law, unless otherwise provided by law. The provisions of the substitute contain an emergency clause with the exception of those regarding any records or flight logs pertaining to a flight by an elected member of the Executive or Legislative branch.

SB 139

Sponsored by Senator Kehoe (R), District 6
2/15/13: H Second Read
3/27/2013: Referred H General Laws Committee

Modifies provisions relating to Missouri’s open records law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law.

The definition of a “public record” is modified to include any lease, sublease, or similar rental instrument entered into by a public body, or any other agreement for the rental, construction, or renovation of a facility.

Currently, all roll call votes in public meetings of public governmental bodies can only be cast by members that are physically present and in attendance at the meeting. This act allows members cast roll call votes if the member is participating via videoconferencing in such meetings.

Currently, public bodies must provide notice of meetings to members of the news media who request such notices. This act requires the public body to also provide notice to any member of the public who requests it. Currently, a public body must provide 24 hours notice of a meeting. This act changes the time to 48 hours, with the exception of the General Assembly which must continue to provide 24 hours notice. Minutes of meetings must reflect the list of subjects discussed in a closed meeting, but shall not require the disclosure of properly closed records.

The act modifies provisions regarding bases for closing a meeting or record. Public disclosure in an open meeting is required for certain legal matters upon final disposition. Such disclosure shall be done orally or in writing and must occur at the next scheduled open meeting of the body, or at the resumption of a recessed open meeting. When a body closes a meeting or record relating to a “cause of action”, the body must have received evidence that a lawsuit has been filed or shall have correspondence indicating a lawsuit shall be filed. Certain bases for closure relating to operational guidelines and security systems expired on December 31, 2012. This act extends the sunset to December 31, 2017.

If a public body closes a meeting, only members of the body, their attorney and staff assistants, as well as any person necessary to provide information, shall be permitted in the meeting.

The custodian of records for a public body is encouraged to create and maintain an index of all public records maintained by the body.

In actions against a public body for violations of the Sunshine Law, current law requires the person bringing the action to demonstrate that the body is subject to the Sunshine Law and held a closed meeting. Then the burden is on the body to demonstrate compliance with the Law. This act removes this language and provides that there is a presumption that a meeting, record, or vote is open to the public. The burden is on the body to prove that such meeting, record, or vote may be closed. Currently, a knowing violation of the Sunshine Law subjects the body or member to a civil penalty of up to $1,000. This act removes the “knowing” element and lessens the fine to $100. For such violations, the court shall, rather than may, order the payment of costs and attorneys fees by the public body to the party establishing the violation. The court may order the payment of such costs and fees by a member of a public body to such party. In determining reasonable attorney fees, the court must take into account the size of the jurisdiction, annual operating budget and other sources of revenue.

This act contains an emergency clause for the section relating to closure of certain records, meetings, and votes.

This act is similar to SB 122 (2013), SB 170 (2013), HB 33 (2013) and SB 764 (2012).

HB 492

Sponsored by Jeff Roorda (R), District 113

2/07/2013 H 298 Introduced and Read First Time (H)
2/11/2013 H 308 Read Second Time (H)

This bill changes the laws regarding the Open Meetings and Records Law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law.

In its main provisions, the bill:

(1) Adds to the list of records that can be closed any record or document regarding internal investigations by law enforcement agencies into the fitness and conduct of a law enforcement officer and any record or document regarding a law enforcement officer’s employment status;

(2) Adds to the list of records that can be closed any record or document regarding a police shooting if it contains the name of the officer who did the shooting unless the officer has been charged with a crime as a result of the shooting; and

(3) Prohibits any law enforcement agency from disclosing the name of any officer who was the shooter or one of the shooters involved in a police shooting unless the officer has been charged with a crime as a result of the shooting.

HB 118

Sponsored by Representative Shull (R), District 16
Introduced 1-11-2013
1/31/2013: Referred – Utilities (H)

This bill changes the laws regarding the Open Meetings and Records Law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law, to allow a public governmental body to close meetings, records, and votes regarding guidelines, policies, security systems, and structural plans used in responding to or preventing any critical incident that is or appears to be terrorist in nature and has the potential to endanger individual or public safety or health. These provisions had expired on December 31, 2012, but the bill extends the provisions to December 31, 2108.

The bill contains an emergency clause.