The government represents the people, but limiting public access to information minimizes the people’s voice. The public has the right to an open government because all citizens are affected by the decisions government officials make.
The Missouri Senate was introduced to a new bill which would threaten the public’s right to a transparent government after it passed in the House.
Rep. Nick Schroer, R-Mo, first proposed the bill which would exempt most of the records from being available to the public.
In an interview with the Herald-Free Press, Schroer said the amendment was created to give privacy to governmental officials and let them decide what information the press receives.
This would limit and weaken the Sunshine Law which is an open meetings and records law.
With the Sunshine Law, the press and the public can attend all open meetings held by a public governmental body. A journal or minutes must be kept of any votes taken in both open and closed meetings.
The records must be kept by someone whose job is to maintain them for the public. The public can request access to a public record.
Government officials are supposed to be servants of the people and have the public’s best interests in mind. They use the public’s money and make decisions on the citizens’ behalf.
By limiting the Sunshine Law, government officials are thinking more about themselves and what benefits them.
Schroer said one of the main reasons for the bill is so they can protect their confidentiality. However, government officials are public people. They chose to be in the public eye, so they should not be able to hide their decisions from the people they affect.
Protecting the Sunshine Law is so important that 45 states and the District of Columbia have nonprofit groups of volunteers committed to the openness of government information.
The Missouri Sunshine Coalition’s mission is to educate all Missourians about their rights under the Sunshine Law.
“We believe firmly that the government’s business should be conducted in the light of day, for all citizens to see,” the website states.
According to an article by the St.Louis Post-Dispatch, the passing of this bill reversed a vote from the last legislative session when the House gave the attorney general’s office more powers to enforce the Sunshine Law.
Citizens of Missouri should contact their local senators about the bill to prevent it from getting passed in the Senate. If enough people bring up the issue, government officials should realize that it would be a bill that hurts the general public.
As public officials, they need to be fully transparent. The citizens they serve must know what is going on in the government.
Limiting information people have access to would make it much harder for them to have a say in the government.
The Missouri Constitution says the people drive the government.
“The people of this state have the inherent, sole and exclusive right to regulate the internal government,” Section 3 states.
The public can’t regulate the government if the Sunshine Law is weakened with this bill.