Sunshine Law changes are long overdue, needed

Sunshine+Law+changes+are+long+overdue%2C+needed

Editorial by the Call

If this newspaper has stood for anything since it was founded in 1989, it has been government transparency.

Sometimes it has seemed like we’re speaking, but no one is listening.

Politicians just keep violating the Sunshine Law with seeming impunity, and the state reacts with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist — sending a brochure on the law to the official accused of violating it.

Then the endless cycle continues.

That appeared to change last week when, with one exception, politicians from across the state and across party lines united for more than just asking Gov. Eric Greitens to resign.

They also united to strengthen the Sunshine Law, which we believe is one of the weakest in the nation.

The Missouri House approved two bills that add enforcement to the Missouri Sunshine Law, strengthening the law and strengthening Missourians’ ability to know what their government officials are up to.

Now the bill heads to the Senate.

We couldn’t be more pleased that the bill was sponsored by one of south county’s own legislators, Rep. David Gregory, R-Sunset Hills. An identical bill was sponsored by Rep. Jean Evans.

Gregory happens to live in a city that, at this point in time, is a beacon of transparency among government entities in South St. Louis County.

But not every Missouri resident has that privilege, and the tougher law will hopefully prevent some of the many abuses we’ve seen of a law that exists to protect all Missourians.

The lone dissent on the 147-1 vote came from Rep. Jeff Pogue. There are no doubt issues that are worthy of standing steadfast in dissent while everyone else votes yes.

But this isn’t one of them.

Whatever Pogue’s reason, we’re disappointed that he didn’t vote to toughen the Sunshine Law. He has suggested legislation to prevent school districts from collecting biometric information and to prevent the government from collecting soil and water samples without permission.

But without the Sunshine Law, how would he track whether that’s been done?

Skepticism of government is all the more reason to support this law.

We urge not just south county’s senators — Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, and Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester — but all Missouri senators to vote for this bill and give teeth to a law that at times is all that stands between their constituents and good and bad government.