Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Why Ed Emery wants changes to the Sunshine Law revised

(From Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar)

Public hearings last week included Senate Bill 132, which addresses some of the concerns raised by the passage of Amendment 1 in November. Although we continue to refine the specifics, the intent of SB 132 has not changed. The two purposes are to protect private communications with a legislator’s constituents (you) and to preserve the deliberative process. 

It is interesting that those who developed the plethora of changes comprising Amendment 1 absent any apparent deliberative process are so afraid that we may have one.

In Missouri, it is very easy to put something on the ballot for voter consideration. Only five of eight U.S. congressional districts even need be involved. I would like to see that changed so rural Missourians can have a voice. 

The other thing that deserves review is that, with the initiative petition process, only a simple majority of the Missourians voting in an election is required to rewrite the Missouri Constitution. Think about it: Changes occur with no publicly debated deliberative process and only fifty percent plus one in any election. That makes Missouri’s Constitution far too vulnerable to mischief. 

One Missouri judge recognized the amendment asunconstitutional because it addressed multiple subjects and multiple articles of the Missouri Constitution. However, the state Supreme Court reversed that opinion.

Had the same issues been proposed by the Legislature, they would have been proposed in several bills. Each provision would have been vetted through the committee process independently. 

Each would have received a separate public hearing and committee vote. Each would have been examined according to what, if any, fiscal impact it would have on Missourians. And, each would have been debated publicly on the floor of the Missouri Senate and voted on publicly before passage. 

Then that same scrutiny, public involvement and open deliberation would have been repeated in the Missouri House of Representatives. Instead of a single point of public input and consideration (the ballot), the public would have effectively helped write the legislation over weeks of deliberation and public scrutiny. Then, if a series of proposals were refined and passed by the Legislature, they would be presented to the voters in an election. The contrast of both deliberation and transparency is enormous.

Light is a great purifier, but there is also a time for discretion and confidentiality – even if only temporary. In the Legislature, everything eventually sees the light of day. It is not insignificant that the U.S. Congress is not subject to the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). 

Even if they were, documents would be protected under “deliberative process exemptions.” Currently, all Midwestern states, including all neighboring states, provide some sort of exemption from the FOIA for legislative records, or have processes to delete or protect deliberative process documents.

Senate Bill 132 is narrowly crafted to protect constituents’ privacy and the internal legislative drafting process. It provides greater access to communications between legislators and lobbyists and special interest groups. I believe it protects the public from inappropriate concealment, but preserves the purposes of public service.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

>>>In the Legislature, everything eventually sees the light of day.<<<

I laughed so hard I choked on my 'murrican fries!