The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
The state legislature has only another week before its mandatory adjournment. As usual, they have much left to do. Two bills important to our rights as citizens had not yet passed as of May 3. These bills would reform the Sunshine Law and eminent domain procedures.
We’re all familiar with the Sunshine Law, which requires that government meetings and records be open to public scrutiny. SB-1020 clarifies some of the murky aspects and closes some of the common methods of abuse, such as email meetings. It limits the fees a governmental body can charge for copies to 10 cents a page (the GWACC&VC charged me $1/page when I was researching their tourism tax records several years ago). It also limits research charges to actual cost based on actual clerical salaries. It also provides for a slightly lower standard of proof for damages to be assessed against a public official who violates the provisions. The Senate has already passed this bill and the House is currently considering it.
Governments across the nation have been reported as abusing the power of eminent domain, which is the power to take private property for government use. The most common abuses have been when governments take private property and turn it over to a developer under the guise that the public good is served by increasing the tax base. As best as I can determine, HB1085 forbids this kind of action except in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. It also provides that the original owner can reclaim land if it is not used for the purpose stated when it was condemned. The bill would also allow the property owner to select one of the individuals who determines the amount he’ll be paid for land that is legitimately taken. HB1085 was due for House consideration on the 3rd. Should it pass, it then must be taken up by the Senate, which has not yet considered a similar bill.
I certainly hope both bills are passed. Should SB1020 become law, I will most definitely use it in my own research on the actions of local government, as well as the actions of “quasi-public governmental bodies.”
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