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Strengthening Missouri's Sunshine Law

Josh Hawley, Missouri Attorney General

Photo by Tim SpyersIcon Sportswire via Getty Images

Josh Hawley explains the proposals for strengthening the Sunshine Law in Missouri
1) Establish a Transparency Division within the Attorney General’s Office. The General Assembly
could enhance the ability of this Transparency Division to enforce public-records laws against
State entities and officials by waiving any actual or potential conflicts of interest that such
enforcement actions might raise. The statute could also implement an ethical screen between
the Transparency Division and other components of the Attorney General’s Office to address
any legitimate confidentiality concerns that the Office’s agency clients might have.
2) Authorize the Attorney General’s Office to issue investigative subpoenas in the course of its
public-record law investigations. As it stands now, the Office cannot legally compel government
entities and officials to cooperate with its public-records investigations. Thus, the Office is left to
depend largely on the cooperation of the entities and officials that it is investigating.
3) Establish new remedies for violations of Chapter 109 and authorize the Attorney General’s
Office to enforce those remedies. While often overlooked, Chapter 109 is frequently just as
important as the Sunshine Law. If a government entity violates Chapter 109 by failing to retain a
record, then that record will not be available for any subsequent Sunshine Law request. Despite
the importance of Chapter 109, the statute has limited enforcement mechanisms and penalties.
The General Assembly could impose enforcement and penalty provisions for Chapter 109
violations akin to those available under the Sunshine Law. And the General Assembly could
authorize the Attorney General’s Office to seek these remedies as part of the watchdog role that
the Office already plays under the Sunshine Law.



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