The Buzz

Missouri Senate faces lawsuit claiming it is violating Sunshine Law

The liberal advocacy group Progress Missouri filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing the Missouri Senate — as well as three individual senators —of regularly violating the state’s open meetings laws by refusing to allow them to film public committee hearings.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Cole County Circuit Court, lists several instances when Republican Sens. Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City, Mike Parson of Bolivar and David Sater of Cassville denied requests to shoot video of public committees hearings.

The group has been told that only credential members of the Missouri Capitol News Association would be granted permission to film, although Parson has refused to allow any cameras in his committee hearings.

Missouri Sunshine Law states that “a public body shall allow for the recording by audiotape, videotape or electronic means of any open meeting.”

Senate administrators have countered that the law allows public bodies to establish guidelines “regarding the manner in which such recording is conducted so as to minimize disruption to the meeting,” and states that no recording can be conducted “without permission of the public body.”

Senate rules, they continue, state that cameras can only be used in committee hearings “with the permission of the chairman as long as they do not prove disruptive to the decorum of the committee.”

“Our democracy works best when there is transparency and accountability, and the Sunshine Law is a necessary tool to maintain both,” Progress Missouri said in a statement. “Some state senators...think that the Sunshine Law doesn't apply to them. They’re wrong.”

The group’s lawsuit is available here.