This summer, Missouri passed a troubling piece of legislation—SS HCS HB 137. The main provisions of it essentially state that license fee offices may not award points to bidders based on the amount of money they would return to the state. While I do not have a major problem with the central purpose of the law, I do find one specific provision very unsettling. It reads as follows:
“The leases, agreements, contracts, or subleases and any amendments for space, usage, or services in any convention center or related facilities owned or operated by a regional convention and visitors commission… must not be considered public records under the Open Meetings and Record law, commonly known as the Sunshine Law…”
It goes on to say that this is only the case if transparency would put the commission at a competitive disadvantage; however it never defines such a situation and seems to leave it to the commission’s discretion.
Upon reading this, I immediately found myself wondering a few things. How is it ever a bad thing for the public to know how a public entity is spending public dollars? What is the possible competitive disadvantage regarding documents to which the parties have already agreed? If there really are legitimate situations in which the Convention and Visitors Commission would be hurt by transparency, why did nobody take the opportunity to tell us what these situations look like? At least the law states that this exemption does not apply if a sports franchise is involved, but I doubt it should apply under any circumstances.
I understand that secondary provisions get tacked on to bills fairly frequently, and perhaps legislators felt very strongly about getting the rest of this bill passed. However, questionable policy is questionable policy. Even if the legislature felt strongly that the main of the bill needed to pass, why did it not take the time to clean up this unrelated, troubling provision?