SB 0375 Revises the Sunshine Law
LR Number:1409S.06P Fiscal Note:1409-06
Committee:Commerce and Environment
Last Action:05/14/01 - Referred H Civil & Administrative Law Committee Journal page:H2134
Title:SS SCS SB 375
Effective Date:August 28, 2001
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Current Bill Summary

SS/SCS/SB 375 - This act revises various provisions relating to public records. When investigating a death, the coroner's or medical examiner's office shall make certain information available as an incident report within 72 hours of death.

The act specifies the information to be contained in the required individual abortion reports made by physicians, including the reason the woman sought the abortion. The Department of Health shall compile the information into an annual report, to include gestational age at which abortions were performed or induced. The act allows a civil action for persons harmed by a violation of laws relating to confidential medical records.

The act defines a public governmental body to specifically include the Curators of the University of Missouri, as well as a Bi-State Development Agency. Currently, any votes taken during a closed meeting shall be by roll call. The act extends this requirement to open meetings as well, except for votes on procedural or ministerial matters. Meetings relating to legal actions, imminent causes of action or litigation involving a public governmental body may be closed. Any vote regarding leasing or purchasing of real estate shall be made public upon execution of the lease or sale.

Currently, salaries and length of service of employees of public agencies may not currently be closed. The exception allowing confidential communications with the auditor of a public governmental body to be closed shall not include any completed audit report. The authority for a municipal electric utility to close records and business plans, in preparation for electric restructuring, shall be null and void if legislation is not enacted on or before December 31, 2003, authorizing such restructuring.

The act provides a method for any member to record an objection to closing the meeting. The act requires production of public records; fees for copying shall not exceed the amounts charged for copies by the Secretary of State.

A public governmental body shall cooperate if the Attorney General attempts to resolve a written complaint. In determining compliance, the Attorney General shall be entitled to copies of records, excepts those of privileged communications. Records identified by the public body as closed shall remain so, except that the Attorney General may use such records in a court proceeding to enforce compliance.

The penalty for a knowing violation shall range from $0 to $2,500, but shall not be more than 5 percent of the body's total annual budget. If the court finds there was a knowing violation, the court may order the payment of attorney's fees and costs. Currently, any person may request a law enforcement agency to open incident reports and arrest records that are unlawfully closed. If the court finds there was any violation, the same penalties listed above apply.

In a criminal proceeding where no conviction results, the court's judgment or order or the final action taken by the prosecuting attorney may be accessed. The act deletes the provision prohibiting law enforcement from releasing accident or incident report to any person who is not an interested party for 60 days.

The act also allows the governing body of a public hospital or a related organization of the hospital to close certain portions of records and meetings. These records include those that relate to the amount of compensation that will be paid to a physician under the public hospital's or related organization's contract proposals to and contracts with physicians, which shall be available to the public upon termination of contracts. All records closed according to the bill must be disclosed pursuant to a lawful subpoena. All other public hospital records are governed by public record laws.