Once a citizen is elected to a government office he becomes a public servant and what he does in government should be in open view to the people who elected him. The public servant by virtue of the office must be accountable to the voters who elected him, or her. Records must be in public view. That’s an objective of the Sunshine Law.
Voters in Missouri gave strong approval to Constitutional Amendment 1, called Clean Missouri, last November. The amendment places a limit on campaign gifts to lawmakers; eliminates almost all lobbyist gifts to members of the General Assembly; requires that legislative records and proceedings be open to the public; requires a two-year wait to become lobbyists from House and Senate members who become private citizens; and ensures that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new House and Senate districts are drawn after the next census.
The last vote had hardly been counted when politicians in Jefferson City went to work to water down the amendment. Some were critical of all or many of the provisions. They wanted a climate of “business as usual,” regardless of how corrupt the actions were.
The opponents tried to convince people the amendment was mainly about redistricting. Republicans feared they could lose some districts to Democrats under redistricting if a nonpartisan approach was taken.
The amendment also is being attacked on the openness provision. The Missouri House has approved a bill, 108 to 41, to approve an amendment to a bill to protect, or hide from public view, private communications in regard to legislation and other state matters.
It was disappointing that Republicans who represent districts in our region voted in favor of hiding these records from the public. Those lawmakers favoring a weakening of Amendment 1 were influenced by those members of the House who spread fear of what openness would do if private communications on legislation were in public view. We don’t buy their fear of making these records public.
For years on different levels of government we have heard something like this: “Don’t tell the public, they wouldn’t understand.”
Well, the public understood the need for reforms in state government and voted in big numbers for Clean Missouri.