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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New bill calls for more transparency, public notice in Missouri

Nineteen members of the Missouri House have developed a bill that would bolster the state's open-government law but that doesn't touch upon government e-mail records, despite the controversy involving former-Gov. Matt Blunt's office.

The bill would:
  • Tighten the guidelines for when public meetings may be closed for potential litigation discussions.
  • Require public comment periods and five business days notice (instead of 24 hours) for government bodies to meet on certain issues.
  • Force governmental bodies to provide electronic versions of public records that are maintained electronically, which could eliminate copying costs for those requesting records.
  • Provide more openness concerning proceedings of the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Some state lawmakers are seeking to strengthen Missouri's open-government law by giving the public more advanced notice of meetings on hot-button local issues such as taxes, zoning and eminent domain.

The legislation also would make public more of the workings of the Missouri Ethics Commission, which receives and reviews campaign finance complaints against politicians.

Those involved in defending and promoting Missouri's Sunshine Law said the legislation hits many of the areas that are causing problems. However, it stops short of the broader overhaul they argue is necessary, but probably wouldn't clear the Missouri General Assembly.

More here.

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