SB 764
Modifies provisons regarding the Sunshine Law
LR Number:
Last Action:
4/17/2012 - Hearing Conducted S General Laws Committee
Journal Page:
Calendar Position:
Effective Date:
August 28, 2012

Current Bill Summary

SB 764 – This act modifies provisions relating to Missouri's open records law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law.

The definition of a "public body" is modified to include quasi-public governmental bodies that act on behalf of a public body and are funded wholly or in part by a public body, as well as any Missouri high school athletic association that receives public funds. The definition of a "public record" is modified to include any lease, sublease, or similar rental instrument entered into by a public body, or any other agreement for the rental, construction, or renovation of a facility.

Currently, public bodies must provide notice of meetings to members of the news media who request such notices. This act requires the public body to also provide notice to any member of the public who requests it. The act provides that the public body cannot act on or discuss any item not appearing on the agenda, except for brief responses to the question from the public present at the meeting. Currently, a public body must provide 24 hours notice of a meeting. This act changes the time to 48 hours, with the exception of the General Assembly which must continue to provide 24 hours notice. Minutes of meetings must reflect the closed meeting discussions, but shall not require the disclosure of properly closed records.

The act modifies provisions regarding bases for closing a meeting or record. Public disclosure in an open meeting is required for certain legal matters upon final disposition. Such disclosure shall be done orally or in writing and must occur at the next scheduled open meeting of the body, or at the resumption of a recessed open meeting. When a body closes a meeting or record relating to a "cause of action", the body must have received evidence that a lawsuit has been filed or shall have correspondence indicating a lawsuit shall be filed. Certain individually identifiable personnel records may currently be closed. The act exempts from this closure any records of former employment for employees of public schools and charter schools. Certain bases for closure relating to operational guidelines and security systems are set to expire on December 31, 2012. This act extends the sunset to December 31, 2016.

If a public body closes a meeting, only members of the body, their attorney and staff assistants, as well as any person necessary to provide information, shall be permitted in the meeting.

The custodian of records for a public body is encouraged to create and maintain an index of all public records maintained by the body. If records are requested in a particular format, the public body shall provide the records in such format, if the record is readily reproducible in that format. Effective January 1, 2013, all public bodies acquiring new data processing programs shall ensure that such programs allow for copying of data in an easily accessible format. If a public body is required to separate exempt and non-exempt material, it shall do so at the body's expense.

Currently, a member of public body that transmits any public business message by electronic means must transmit the message to the custodian of records. This act provides that a mobile communication device is considered an electronic means.

Currently, a public body can charge for research time in response to a request for records. This act provides that research time shall only include the time reasonably spent in locating the subject records, but shall not include time spent in reviewing the records to determine if the records are open or closed.

In actions against a public body for violations of the Sunshine Law, current law requires the person bringing the action to demonstrate that the body is subject to the Sunshine Law and held a closed meeting. Then the burden is on the body to demonstrate compliance with the Law. This act removes this language and provides that there is a presumption that a meeting, record, or vote is open to the public. The burden is on the body to prove that such meeting, record, or vote may be closed. Currently, a knowing violation of the Sunshine Law subjects the body or member to a civil penalty of up to $1,000. This act removes the "knowing" element and lessens the fine to $100. For such violations, the court shall, rather than may, order the payment of costs and attorneys fees to the party establishing the violation. Also, this act removes the ability of a public body to seek the formal opinion of the Attorney General or an attorney for the public body when it is in doubt about the legality of closing a meeting.

The act modifies the definition of an "incident report" to provide that the report must include the home address of the victim. Such address may be redacted in certain crimes involving domestic violence, forcible rape, sexual assault or stalking. Any member of the media operating within the state of Missouri shall, upon request, obtain a complete unaltered and unedited incident report, with the exception of the home addresses of certain victims described in this paragraph. In actions seeking disclosure of an investigative report of a law enforcement agency, the court shall, rather than may, award costs and attorneys fees if it finds the decision of the law enforcement agency not to open the report was substantially unjustified.