Maybe 2010 will bring us a stronger Sunshine Law

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\”Call the Tune\” by Mike Anthony

As 2009 draws to a close, fourth-graders from Lindbergh Schools and the Mehlville School District have outlined their resolutions for 2010 on Page 10A and 11A in today’s Call.

We encourage readers to take a look at the youngsters’ resolutions in today’s issue.

Many more of the fourth-graders’ resolutions are featured on our Web site at

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Reading the fourth-graders’ thoughts about the coming year inspired us to formulate a couple of resolutions for 2010 regarding the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law.

While some south county governmental entities — Lindbergh Schools, the Mehlville School District and the Mehlville Fire Protection District — do an outstanding job of complying with the Sunshine Law, many more do not.

In some cases, trying to obtain something as simple as a meeting notification — as required by the Sunshine Law — is difficult. In other cases, trying to obtain information to which we are lawfully entitled to under the law is like pulling teeth.

For 2010, we resolve to be even more aggressive in ensuring local governmental entities comply with the Sunshine Law and vow to hold their feet to the fire when we believe they aren’t adhering to it.

But as we’ve noted many times before, much of the lack of transparency in Missouri governmental entities is a direct result of the inherent weakness of this state’s Sunshine Law. By far, Illinois officials have a much more progressive view of access to public records and meetings than officials here.

In fact, Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act will become even stronger on Jan. 1 when legislation adopted last year by the Illinois General Assembly becomes effective.

That legislation, Senate Bill 189, among other provisions, limits copying charges, ensures significant consequences for failing to respond to FOIA requests, establishes stiff penalties for FOIA violations and requires court-awarded attorney’s fees to FOIA requestors who prevail in litigation.

So as we enter 2010 and the Missouri General Assembly is about to convene, we resolve to encourage state legislators, particularly those who represent south county, to make strengthening the Sunshine Law one of their top priorities.

We encourage both sides of the aisle to work together because transparent government transcends party lines.