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Liberal Watchdog Group Suing State Senators, Citing Sunshine Law

Missouri Capitol
David Shane
The Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee agreed Wednesday to follow the House's lead by holding funding flat for public universities.

One of the state’s most aggressive groups when it comes to recording Missouri Senate hearings has had enough with some senators saying no.

Liberal watchdog group Progress Missouri is suing the Missouri Senate as a whole along with Sens. Mike Kehoe, David Sater, and Mike Parson.

In the lawsuit, they allege the Senate and the senators have violated Section 610.020.3 of the Missouri Sunshine Law, which states in part, “A public body shall allow for the recording by audiotape, videotape, or other electronic means of any open meeting.”

Progress Missouri Executive Director Sean Nicholson said this lawsuit was a last resort.

“I’m not really sure what else we could’ve tried,” he said. “We asked every way that we knew how. Senators had arbitrary sets of rules that shifted from committee to committee.”

Progress Missouri has had an ongoing battle with Kehoe, Sater, and Parson throughout the 2015 legislative session. Each senator chairs a Senate committee in which Nicholson’s group has requested to film.

One such instance is when Progress Missouri wanted to film a Senate Seniors Committee hearing chaired by Sater. The day before the hearing, Sater’s chief of staff sent an email on behalf of the senator to the group saying, “At our first hearing this year, I announced the committee’s policy that video recording is prohibited unless you are a member of the media as recognized by the Missouri Capitol News Association.”

Nicholson said the goal of the lawsuit is to show senators they’re not above the law.

“The Sunshine Law applies to everyone and it’s time for them to start following the law just like they expect every other member of the government to do,” Nicholson said.

KBIA reached out to Sens. Sater, Kehoe, and Parson, but none of them returned calls for comment.

A copy of the lawsuit can he found here