Sunshine Law shines for all

Friday, March 8, 2019

Sunshine Week begins Sunday and it has nothing to do with moving the clock an hour ahead.

The American Society of News Editors launched the first national Sunshine Week in 2005 to go with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, a key advocate of the Bill of Rights.

Missouri’s Sunshine Law was passed in 1973 in the wake of Watergate to become one of the earliest such laws for opening meetings and records at all levels to the public. It says, “It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law.”

A month ago we noted that Missouri House Bill 445, which would add legislative records to be closed from the public, had moved to the Senate for consideration. It’s not alone. Currently, there are at least nine bills proposed in the state legislature to modify the law in some form.

That does not include Senate Bill 268, which would have repealed the requirement that legal notices be published in newspapers. It failed a vote in the Senate General Laws Committee on Tuesday. Among those voting no were Senator Doug Libla, the committee’s vice-chairman.

More bills are working their way through the House or Senate concerning public notices that could make them, well, less public.

Like the Sunshine Law, public notices are a way to keep citizens informed.

Citizens demand an open and ethical government. In the last election, 62 percent of voters were in favor of Amendment 1, which, among other items, required the legislative records and proceedings to be subject to the Sunshine Law.

It’s important to note that the Sunshine Law is for every citizen, not just members of the press. It opens the doors to government to everyone. Anyone can file a complaint with the state attorney general or lawsuit to enforce it.

Like a light shining from Lady Liberty’s torch, the Sunshine Law helps protect our freedom by allowing the public to know what its government is doing and how it is conducting that business.

We say Missouri and America are better because of the Sunshine Law. Protect it.

— Daily American Republic

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