A Missouri state representative said Tuesday that all public officials should be required to receive training about how to comply with the state’s public meetings and records law.
“Voters have the right to an open government,” said Rep. Jeff Roorda, who introduced HB 1440, and modeled it after similar legislation in Texas that took effect in 2006.
‘“We’ve got a good Sunshine Law here in Missouri, but it’s not always obeyed,’ he said. Public officials "should have training so they can’t use ignorance as a shield or the Sunshine Law as a shield to protect secretive government acts.”
The attorney general’s office would handle the training, which could be done via video or Internet, Roorda said. The training would need to be completed within 90 days of holding public office.
The exact number people who would need training is unknown, but it’s estimated to be in the tens of thousands. The logistical hurdles of implementing the law don’t faze Roorda, however, who said he doesn’t think the training is a “daunting requirement” at all.
Some state lawmakers did voice concern that this new requirement might dissuade people from applying for public positions. Roorda said this would ultimately be a good thing for both the government and the citizens it serves.
“If complying with the law scares you, you shouldn’t be serving a public office,” Roorda said. “I hope it scares people out of running for office who think the government should operate in the shadows.”