The paragraph was buried toward the end of Senator Gary Nodler's column in Tuesday's Neosho Daily News:
"We have also been asked by the governor to repeal the law that bans the posting of elected or appointed government officials' home addresses or phone numbers on the Internet. The genesis for the law was to protect public officials from harassment and threats, but because the public has a right to know certain things about those who represent them in state government, we will be tweaking the legislation to better serve all Missourians."
Now I can understand why Nodler and the other legislators who played key roles in cutting Medicaid benefits to poor Missourians might not want people to know how to get in touch with them. Nodler has even more reason to be concerned about that since his notorious movie meltdown when he became upset when some developmentally disabled adults got too loud for his tastes during his free daytime viewing of "Fantastic Four."
I ask the simple question: Why are these senators and representatives, who were sent to Jefferson City by us, passing legislation to keep us from getting anywhere near them? As I pointed out in an earlier Turner Report post, this not only gets rid of lists of senators, representatives or other officials, but it also keeps information about any legal difficulties that may arise concerning them, any land transactions, or any other information off the Internet.
And since the bill seems to cover any legislator and any old buddy that may receive the reward of a job as a repayment for a campaign contribution, it could very easily curtail any enterprising investigative journalist who does not have the time or the money to go to a county courthouse on the other side of the state to unearth information.
And, as has also been pointed out, many officials are simply going to remove all records from the internet rather than take a chance of violating the law.
I am curious as to whether the legislature will do what the governor says and get rid of this portion of the bill. They have three choices: They can remove the offending amendment, they can leave it as it is, or they can revise it in an effort to find another way to keep the public from knowing how to reach them.
The first option, of course, would be the best. I fear one of the other two will be what we will see happen this week.
Speaking of Gary Nodler's columns, and others by Marilyn Ruestman and Kevin Wilson that run in the Daily, I would advise new publisher Rick Rogers to take the approach that my former publisher at The Carthage Press, Jim Farley, took when it came to legislative columns.
Farley's rule was simple: He would run the columns, but the minute someone announced a candidacy for that position, the column was pulled until after the election go keep the candidate from getting an unfair advantage.
I would suggest either going along with that rule or immediately offering the other candidate or candidates columns. Of course, that might cut down on a little bit of political advertising.
Then again, you could always establish a rule that says once a candidate files, the newspaper's spaces would be open to the incumbent and to the challenger...as paid advertising.
I am in favor of giving the space to both sides, since it would promote a discussion of the issues, which would benefit both the newspaper and its readers, but I do understand that a newspaper has to make a profit to stay in business.