Well, mercy, as my wonderful grandma used to say! Just when I think things are quieting down across our fair state, more chaos breaks out involving the sunshine law. Most of you know what I mean. If you don't, you can sample it here, here and here.
I don't claim any special knowledge about the facts here. I'll leave that to the full-time reporters, whose job it is to ferret out the story. I do, however, ponder what this means for the sunshine law in our state.
The law needs revisions. This need is ongoing. The more the law is used, the more we see how it needs to be fine-tuned. The language it contains is always rife for interpretations and misinterpretations. Changes are needed.
We need to make sure the law is clear that e-mails are covered. Despite some who question this, I do believe our governor understands this and also that he supports sunshine law principles, as seen in his recent call for openness in other areas. He helped write the state requirements on records retention when he was Secretary of State. Those may need either updating or placed in another place in state law.
I think changes need to be put into the law that would open for more public examination information collected in the selection process of those candidates for the highest offices in public governmental bodies in our state, at whatever level they exist. These are persons whose decisions affect all of us and their selection needs to be subject to the highest public scrutiny possible.
As always, I think we need to require those in public bodies to honor and observe the principles which are the basis for the sunshine law. No other law in the state mandates that one must have some intent to break the law before any penalty can be imposed. Our criminal laws would be worthless if prosecutors could only prosecute criminals who either knowingly or purposely broke the law. Why is there a different standard for the sunshine law? And why do we let persons elected to uphold our laws in the state ignore this law repeatedly and not be penalized?
I trust that Governor Blunt, Attorney General Nixon, leaders of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, legislators who are Democrats, Republicans, and those who were Republican but are now Democratic, will this year answer the call to pass legislation to strengthen this law. It's an issue every single elected official should be able to support.