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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Running afoul of Missouri's open government laws could carry a smaller financial penalty but no longer require proof the law was knowingly broken under legislation before a Senate committee.
Officials or agencies now can pay up to $5,000 for a purposeful violation and up to $1,000 for a "knowing" violation. The Senate legislation would reduce the amount of the lesser penalty to $100 and no longer require a violation be committed "knowingly" for there to be punishment.
Supporters say the changes would make enforcement of the Sunshine Law just like that of other statutes.
Organizations representing cities, counties and other local governments are critical. They question levying penalties against people who can be volunteers and who accidently violate an open meeting or public records requirement while serving their communities.
The Senate and House each gave first-round approval Tuesday to their versions of a bill to renew security exemptions that expired at the end of 2012. One had covered security systems and structural plans and the other dealt with plans for responding to terrorism incidents.
The Senate legislation also would require officials give more notice before meetings and disclose general topics of closed sessions. Plus, it would put the burden on the governmental body to demonstrate something can be closed.
The House measure states that logs and records from elected officials' flights are an open record.
Both versions of the legislation require another vote before moving to the other chamber.