SB1020 - Revises provisions of the Sunshine Law - Steelman
SB 1020 Revises provisions of the Sunshine Law
Sponsor:Steelman Co-Sponsor(s)
LR Number:2728S.12T Fiscal Note:2728-12
Committee:Commerce and Environment
Last Action:06/07/04 - Signed by Governor Journal page:
Title:CCS HS HCS SCS SBs 1020, 889 & 869
Effective Date:August 28, 2004
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Current Bill Summary

CCS/HS/HCS/SCS/SBs 1020, 889 & 869 - This act revises various provisions relating to public records. The Curators of the University of Missouri and any bi-state development agency are considered a public governmental body. Any meeting held by conference call, video conference, Internet chat or Internet message board is considered a public meeting. Documents prepared for a public body by a consultant are considered a public record and must be retained by the public governmental body. The definition of public record also includes records created or maintained by private contractors under an agreement with a public body. Public votes include votes cast in person, by telephone or other electronic means.

All roll call votes taken in public meetings where all members are elected officials, except for meetings of the General Assembly or a committee established by a public body or meetings called due to an emergency, shall consist only of members who are physically present and in attendance at the meeting. Meetings conducted by telephone or other electronic means must include notice of the mode by which the meeting will be conducted and where the public may attend the meeting. Notice for such meetings must be posted on the website of the public body as well as at the principal office of the body. The body must allow for the recording by audiotape or videotape, but may establish guidelines regarding the manner of recording in order to minimize disruption to the meeting. Any person who audio records a closed meeting without the permission of the public body is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. Public bodies are required to maintain minutes of closed meetings.

Records concerning a transaction involving real estate must be made public upon execution of the transaction, rather than within 72 hours of execution. Donations or contributions from private sources, including the amount of the contribution, to the salary of a chancellor or president at all public colleges and universities in Missouri cannot be closed. Final audit reports issued by auditors of a public body must be open. Operational guidelines and policies of certain public health and safety entities used to respond to terrorist threats may be closed. Such records must be reviewed by the receiving agency within 90 days of submission to see if retention of the document is necessary to further a state security interest. Agencies seeking to close such records must make certain written statements about the need to not release such records. Records voluntarily submitted by a non-public entity owning or operating an infrastructure to a public governmental body for use by the body to devise plans for the protection of the infrastructure may be closed. Records relating to the procurement of or expenditures relating to security systems are open.

A member of a public body may object to the closing of a meeting, record or vote if the member believes the motion to close violates the Sunshine Law. Such member must object at or before the motion to closed is voted upon. The member shall be allowed to fully participate in any subsequent meeting or vote. If the objecting members also votes in opposition to the motion to close, the member shall be immune from any liability for improper closure of a meeting. The act requires a public governmental body to supply a requested record in the format requested, if the document is available in such format.

Any member of public body who transmits a message relating to public business by electronic means must concurrently transmit the message to the person's office computer or to the custodian of records. This only applies to messages sent to two or more members of the board so that, when counting the sender, a majority of the members are copied.

The modifies the allowable copying charges for public records, except for motor vehicle records. Fees cannot exceed 10 cents per page for paper no larger than 9 by 14 inches and the hourly fee for search time cannot exceed the average hourly rate of pay for the clerical staff of the public body. Research time for record requests may be charged at the actual cost of research time. Based on the scope of the request, the body can use employees that result in the least amount of charges for search and duplication. The person may request the body to provide an estimate of the costs prior to the production of the records. The fee for access to public records on a computer, including maps, and paper copies larger than 9 by 14 inches shall include the cost of copies, staff time, which shall not exceed the hourly rate of pay for staff of the body, and the cost of the disk used for duplication, if necessary. If specialized personnel are needed to copy documents, a different fee may be charged for personnel time. In any suit against a public body for violation of the Sunshine Law, the custodian of records cannot alter or dispose of the records at issue.

The act provides that a public body or member or any law enforcement agency or officer is liable for any knowing or purposeful violation of the Sunshine Law. If such public body, law enforcement agency, officer or member commits a knowing violation of the Law, the public entity, law enforcement agency, officer or member shall be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1000 and the court may award costs and attorney fees. If such public entity, law enforcement agency, officer or member purposely violates the Law, the civil penalty shall be up to $5,000 and the court shall award costs and attorney fees. In all cases, the court shall have discretion in the amount of the fine based on the size of the jurisdiction, the seriousness of the offense, and whether the entity or member has previously violated the Law.

A public body must ensure that any contract for a public records database must not impair the ability of the public to inspect or copy public records. A useable electronic format shall allow viewing and printing of records. If the body keeps records on a system capable of being copied, then the body shall provide data to the public in such electronic format, if requested.

The act deletes language which authorized a law enforcement agency to withhold accident or incident reports for 60 days.

Currently, a newspaper must be published regularly and consecutively for three years to be qualified to publish advertisements and orders of publication required by law. This act allows a newspaper to waive the three year requirements if the newspaper is the sole paper operating in the county and it has been published regularly and consecutively for two years. This section contains an emergency clause.

This act is similar to SB 414 (2003).
JIM ERTLE