The doors of our elected officials are always open to lobbyists. I have hammered home that point over and over again since I began writing this blog several months ago. Those are the people who have access to our senators and representatives. They know our elected officials' home addresses, their home phone numbers, their cell phone numbers, their e-mail addresses, where they can be located at any time.
Now thanks to our elected officials, all of that information will be unavailable to the public.
It was one of the last-day flurry of bills that the General Assembly passes every year, taking advantage of the opportunity to serve themselves at a time when the media and the public's attention is focused on the major issues like the budget and education.
SB 420 makes it a misdemeanor for a court, state, or local agency to post on the Internet the home address, Social Security number or telephone number of any elected or appointed official without first obtaining the official's written permission.
An article posted today on the Kansas City Star website notes that the Missouri Press Association is asking Governor Matt Blunt to veto the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, of course garnering the vote of Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, and was approved 150-1 in the House with those voting for it including Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, Ron Richard, R-Joplin, Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar.
The only representative who voted against it was Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis.
The Star article says the law applies from everyone from Governor Blunt to city council members and police officers. Missouri Press Association Executive Director Doug Crews said, "These are officials that have taxpayer-funded salaries. We think the people should have access to that information." Crews said he wrote a letter to the governor after receiving a call from Boone County Recorder of Deeds Bettie Johnson who said the legislation could keep her from posting real estate deals on her office's website because she had no idea if a deed might come in with an address of an official from other jurisdiction.
If she did post that information inadvertently, under the terms of the bill, she could be sent to jail for up to 15 days and/or fined $300.
Or consider the recent case of former Southwest City Police Chief Toi Cannada, who was arrested. Under the terms of SB 420, her address could not be posted on the Internet without her consent. The same would apply to any public officials who might be plaintiffs of defendants in lawsuits, and it would probably have an effect on any public agency that posts public records on Internet sites. None of them could afford to take the time to go through each name to make sure the person is not a police officer or a fireman or a city council member.
The law is a bad one. That is something that our elected officials need to know...if we can figure out how to get hold of them.