Keep light on in Missouri Sunshine Law

January 18, 2013 12:03 PM

Opinion from Springfield News-Leader:

(January 16, 2013) - Balancing our rights and our safety can be a tough job, but the state has an opportunity to do just that.

The General Assembly will soon consider a recently expired provision of the Sunshine Law that prevented information that could compromise security from becoming public. The provision, put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, could offer important protections — but as it was written, it goes beyond what is needed.

Gov. Jay Nixon is worried that, without the provision, information such as government blueprints, security guidelines and emergency response plans could fall into the hands of someone who would do us harm.

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Ken Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition in Columbia, is concerned that, under the previously existing language, the agency’s assertion does not have to be correct, just in writing.

Jean Maneke, an attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said the MPA has worked with the Department of Public Safety on language that could improve the provision. Regarding the agency exception, it would require that the agency cite specific facts to support its assertion of an exemption.