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Committee sends Kehoe’s safety bill to full Senate

After 11 people testified for a bill that would restore public building security plans to “closed record” status under Missouri’s Open Records law, state Sen. Mike Kehoe asked the Senate’s Judiciary Committee to “move this to the floor as quickly as possible.”

No one spoke against the measure.

Until Dec. 31, emergency plans for dealing with crises like the Newtown, Conn., school shootings or the Aurora, Colo., movie theater killings were not available for reporters or the general public to see.

Cole County Sheriff Greg B. White reminded committee members “there are reasons for closed records ... The greatest treasure that we have is our children, and the greatest thing that we can do to protect them is to make our operational plans as safe and secure as they can be.”

Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, sponsored the bill after the previous law blocking public scrutiny of the records expired last year.

“This language was in several bills last year, but they didn’t make it to the finish-line,” he explained.

“This would set this (new sunset) date until Dec. 31, 2017, so it gives another opportunity for folks to check in on it.”

White said Missouri sheriffs support that new sunset — although they also would be happy if lawmakers permanently close the records.

“If it rates being an exception now, it rates being an exception (forever),” he said.

Jefferson City School Board member John Ruth testified for the local schools and the Missouri School Boards Association.

“Public disclosure of school safety plans has a very real possibility of putting our students and teachers at undue risk,” he said. “I encourage you to take up this bill immediately.”

Ray Comiskey, president of Jefferson College, a two-year community college in Hillsboro, told lawmakers the secrecy was helpful just recently.

“We were informed by the sheriff’s department that we had someone using college computers to access (and download) child pornography,” Comiskey reported. “We put a plan into place .... and I’m happy to report that, last week, a suspect was arrested.”

James Klahr, a state Public Safety department attorney, told the committee the security plan protections are “not limited (just) to schools,” but also cover things like the details of new security systems.

“We do allow expenditures to be open to disclosure, so the press and public will know how those dollars are being spent generally,” Klahr testified, “but, again, the specific details of the response plans not only help to protect the citizens in those institutions, but also the first responders, whether they be fire, police, etcetera.”

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