SB 139 - This act modifies provisions relating to Missouri's open records law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law.
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, all roll call votes in public meetings of public governmental bodies can only be cast by members that are physically present and in attendance at the meeting. This act allows members cast roll call votes if the member is participating via videoconferencing in such meetings.
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. 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 list of subjects discussed in a closed meeting, 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 bases for closure relating to operational guidelines and security systems expired on December 31, 2012. This act extends the sunset to December 31, 2017.
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.
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 by the public body to the party establishing the violation. The court may order the payment of such costs and fees by a member of a public body to such party. In determining reasonable attorney fees, the court must take into account the size of the jurisdiction, annual operating budget and other sources of revenue.
This act contains an emergency clause for the section relating to closure of certain records, meetings, and votes.
This act is similar to SB 122 (2013), SB 170 (2013), HB 33 (2013) and SB 764 (2012).