Today's Edition Local Missouri Opinion Obits Sports GoMidMo HER Magazine Events Classifieds Public notices Newsletters Election '22 Contests Jobs Special Sections National World

Our Opinion: Strike against government transparency

by News Tribune | January 19, 2022 at 3:56 a.m.

We were disappointed to learn that one of Gov. Mike Parson's priorities for the legislative session is to keep more information from the public.

A Missouri Independent story first reported that Parson seeks to amend the state's open records law, also known as the Sunshine Law, to withhold more information from the public. He also would let governmental agencies charge more for any records that are turned over.

The news source gleaned the story not from information given out by the Governor's Office, but through the Sunshine Law. An open records request found that the proposal was outlined in a presentation to Parson's cabinet.

The news source reported the change would reverse a recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling against Parson's office that found attorney review time was not "research time" under the Sunshine Law and thus could not be charged.

The slide on proposed Sunshine Law changes dubbed the proposals as "Good Government" reforms, the story said. The slide described the changes as ones that would "benefit political subdivisions, the legislature and state government."

But it would benefit those government entities at the expense of you and I -- the people who pay for government.

"If they succeed in accomplishing this wish list of changes, it will make it incredibly difficult and expensive for Missourians to get access to information about what their government is doing," said Dave Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center of Missouri, a libertarian nonprofit that advocates for government transparency.

Bills already have been filed that would weaken the Sunshine Law. One would allow public entities responding to a Sunshine request to charge the person seeking the open records for "attorney review time." That would include time attorneys spend determining whether all, none or some of the information being requested is legally public information.

Such fees have made it cost-prohibitive for people to seek public information at times in the past. Last June the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Sunshine Law does not authorize these types of fees.

The Sunshine Law needs to be strengthened, not weakened. Attempts to weaken it will only increase distrust in government.

We ask the governor to reconsider this priority, and we ask lawmakers to nix any bills that would limit government transparency.

News Tribune

Print Headline: Our Opinion: Strike against government transparency


Sponsor Content