HB1718 Revises the Sunshine Law.
Sponsor: Smith, Philip (11) Effective Date:00/00/0000
CoSponsor: Skaggs, Bill (31) LR Number: 4134L.02C
Last Action: COMMITTEE: CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW
03/13/2000 - HCS Reported Do Pass (H)
HCS HB 1718
Next Hearing:Hearing not scheduled
Calendar:HOUSE BILLS FOR PERFECTION
Position on Calendar:016
ACTIONS HEARINGS CALENDAR
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Available Bill Summaries for HB1718 Copyright(c)
* Committee * Introduced

Available Bill Text for HB1718
* Committee * Introduced *

BILL SUMMARIES

COMMITTEE

HCS HB 1718 -- SUNSHINE LAW

SPONSOR:  Smith

COMMITTEE ACTION:  Voted "do pass" by the Committee on Civil and
Administrative Law by a vote of 15 to 3.

This substitute makes several changes to the law governing open
records and open meetings.  The substitute:

(1)  Allows public hospitals to close records and meetings
pertaining to payment amounts and methodologies of contract
proposals with health insurance providers, proposed strategic
plans to develop new health services or facilities, and hospital
contracts with physicians regarding compensation;

(2)  Clarifies that votes taken by a public body in a closed
meeting regarding legal actions, the acquiring of real property,
or personnel matters must be taken by roll call vote and the
results of the vote be made public; and

(3)  Increases the maximum civil penalty for knowing violation
of the Sunshine Law from $500 to $25,000, but not to exceed 5%
of the public entity's annual budget.

FISCAL NOTE:  No impact on state funds.

PROPONENTS:  Supporters say that in the recent compliance audit
conducted by the State Auditor, more than half of the political
subdivisions failed to properly comply with an anonymous records
request.  Part of the problem stems from the degree of intent
that must be proven.  Violation of the Sunshine Law must have
been done "purposely" before a public official may be fined.
This term appears in statute only in campaign finance provisions
and in the Sunshine Law.  It is a level of intent that courts
have rarely found to have been met.  The maximum penalty must be
raised because $500 simply does not carry a strong enough threat
to force compliance with the law.  Regarding the closing of some
records maintained by public hospitals, the release of strategic
plans and physicians' compensation levels hurts the hospitals'
ability to compete with private hospitals, which don't have to
release such information.

Testifying for the bill were Representative Smith; State
Auditor, Claire McCaskill; North Kansas City Hospital; Health
Midwest; Sierra Club; Boone Hospital; Bill Kirsten; Kelly
McClellan; and Missouri Hospital Association.

OPPONENTS:  Those who oppose the bill say that 80% of the 4,700
political subdivisions in the state are very small, with very
small budgets.  Many of these political entities don't even have
one full-time employee.  For example, a water district in a
rural area might employ one person for two days a month to send
out and receive payment for water bills.   If people
volunteering to serve on local boards and commissions were fined
for not responding to a record request within 3 days, a lot of
board members would resign.  The size of the fine, $25,000,
would bankrupt many political subdivisions.  Instead of making
the penalties so severe, the state should offer more training on
responding to public records.  There is an annual turnover rate
of 30% in the positions that typically are designated the
custodian of records.  These small political entities will
gladly comply with the law.  They just need help learning what
the law requires.  The Office of the Secretary of State responds
to thousands of record requests each year, but the bill would
hold these clerical workers and the Secretary of State
personally responsible for mere clerical errors, which are bound
to happen over time, considering the volume of requests.
Regarding the section of the bill dealing with public hospitals,
the contract bids made to such hospitals are already closed
records, so the state does not need to grant public hospitals
any more exemptions to the Sunshine Law.

Testifying against the bill were the Missouri Municipal League;
Missouri Press Association; and Office of the Secretary of State.

Richard Smreker, Legislative Analyst


INTRODUCED

HB 1718 -- Sunshine Law

Co-Sponsors:  Smith, Skaggs

This bill makes several changes to the law governing open
records and open meetings.  The bill:

(1)  Allows public hospitals to close records and meetings
pertaining to payment amounts and methodologies of their
contract proposals with health insurance providers, proposed
strategic plans to develop new health services or facilities,
proposed strategic plans designed to make a hospital or its
subsidiaries more efficient, and their contracts with physicians
regarding compensation;

(2)  Clarifies that votes taken by a public body in a closed
meeting regarding legal actions, the acquiring of real property,
or personnel matters must be taken by roll call vote and the
results of the vote be made public;

(3)  Increases the maximum civil penalty for a knowing violation
of the Sunshine Law from $500 to $25,000; and

(4)  Creates a presumption of a knowing violation of the
Sunshine Law by a public governmental body in cases where the
public governmental body has received a Sunshine Law request in
writing.


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Last Updated October 5, 2000 at 11:34 am