The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 24, 2014

Our View: It's the people's law

— The annual Sunshine Week of promotion and awareness ended on Saturday, but now is not the time for our readers to put what they may have learned about open-meeting and open-records laws on the shelf until this time next year.

When it comes to the people’s right to know, the sunshine laws are a best friend. They provide access to crime reports, accident reports, property tax records and foreclosure notices. Under these laws, you are entitled to see minutes of government meetings, and, if a vote is taken in a closed session, you have the right to know the outcome of that vote within 72 hours.

Sunshine laws are your ticket to being an active participant in government at all levels. But its uses to you at the local level are endless.

Access to the laws is available to you online through your state attorney general’s website, or you may write and ask the attorney general’s office for a copy.

These laws, coupled with the freedoms guaranteed to the press through the Constitution, are the tools journalists use to provide information to the public. But sunshine laws are really created for the public.

Jim Robertson, former president of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition and managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune, earlier this week told Globe reporter Emily Younker that the state’s sunshine law keeps public business in the public eye.

But he also admitted that most members of the public don’t realize it belongs to them.

“I’m frustrated sometimes that the perception is that it’s a law for the newspaper, for the news media, and it’s not,” he said. “It’s for the public.”

The government belongs to the people. Those who are elected by the people, work for the people. Sunshine laws help keep it that way.

Use the laws.

They belong to you.

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