SPONSOR: Maxwell (Smith)

COMMITTEE ACTION: Voted "do pass" by the Committee on Civil and Administrative Law by a vote of 14 to 3.

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

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

(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) 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;

(4) Permits the closure of records containing proprietary information submitted as part of an application for certification as a minority or woman-owned business; and

(5) Makes confidential all personally identifiable information regarding participants and beneficiaries of accounts within the Missouri Higher Education Savings Program.

FISCAL NOTE: No impact on state funds.

PROPONENTS: Supporters say that the increase in the penalty for violating the Sunshine Law is needed to properly enforce the statute. The open records law is routinely ignored by public entities because there is no real penalty for violations. The term "purposely" in the existing law has resulted in courts rarely finding that the public officers acted with intent, and so they are never fined. The statute is useless if it is never enforced.

Testifying for the bill were Senator Maxwell; Claire McCaskill, State Auditor; Missouri Press Association; Office of the Attorney General; and Missouri Municipal League.

OPPONENTS: There was no opposition voiced to the committee.

Richard Smreker, Legislative Analyst