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Hawley wants lawmakers to beef up Sunshine Law

Jean Maneke, counsel to the Missouri Press Association, and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley on Monday discuss changes to the Sunshine Law. 1/22/18
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio


Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley wants the state legislature to adopt a few changes he’s proposing this year to Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

First, he wants to set up a transparency division within his office that would have the authority to enforce the Sunshine Law against state agencies.

“That’s walled off from the rest of the attorney general’s office, meaning that folks who work in this office of transparency would never defend an executive agency,” Hawley said. “The legislature would write the law, such that any Sunshine enforcement action could be taken by them and would not create an ethical problem under Missouri law.”


The Sunshine Law calls for meetings, records, votes and other actions by governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise specified.


Hawley also wants his office to have subpoena power to enforce the Sunshine Law, and wants the authority to enforce the state’s records retention law.

“The records retention law has no enforcement provisions in it at all and no penalties for violation,” he said. “That needs to change.”


No bills carrying his proposals have been filed yet. The proposals have the backing of the Missouri Press Association’s legal counsel Jean Maneke.

“We are pleased that this conversation has begun — and look forward to supporting progress with regards to keeping Missouri government open and transparent,” she said.

Hawley was the subject of a Sunshine law request to release his University of Missouri emails when he was a candidate for attorney general. He told reporters Monday he released all of them the moment he learned of the request. However, a Post-Dispatch story from 2015 states that Hawley at first resisted releasing them, claiming it would violate his academic freedom as a law professor.


Hawley is now seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.


Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport


Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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