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					Common Cause / Mississippi
Legislative Update and Action Alert
2-10-08

It appears that all the general bills and constitutional amendments are out now. There are
a number of bills that affect the Open Meetings and Public Records laws. The first three
bills listed below are ones we requested to be introduced. For some, there are multiple
copies of the same bill.

1) Clarify that the initial reports of law enforcement agents are a public record.
HOUSE BILLS: HB 474, sponsor John Mayo; HB 673, sponsor Ed Blackmon; and HB
1152, sponsor Warner McBride.
All three House bills are in the House Judiciary A Committee. Since that committee is
chaired by Rep. Blackmon, it is most likely that he will take up HB 673 which he
sponsored.

SENATE BILL 2728, sponsored by Terry Burton is assigned to Judiciary Division B
Committee, which is chaired by Gray Tollison.

2) HOUSE BILL 1158, Shorten the deadline to respond to public records requests
to three days. An extension for good cause may be allowed if the public body sends a
letter to the requesting party outlining the reason for the delay. In no event shall the total
time for response exceed seven working days.
The bill is sponsored by Cecil Brown and is in the House Judiciary A Committee, chaired
by Ed Blackmon.

3) HOUSE BILL 1162, In public records law, include quaisi-public groups in the
definition of “public bodies.”
The bill is sponsored by John Mayo and is in the Judiciary A Committee chaired by Ed
Blackmon. The definition of “public body” shall include any entity, whether
incorporated or not, which expends public funds or which performs functions which
would otherwise be performed by a public body.

4) House Bill 955; Public Records; release exempt records when the reason for
nondisclosure no longer exists. The bill is sponsored by Steve Holland and is assigned
to Judiciary A committee.

5) House Bills 792, 793, and 796 have provisions enabling the Ethics Commission to
enforce the Public Records and Open Meetings Acts. The Commission would have
the discretion to dismiss the complaint or proceed with hearings. They could also
mediate or otherwise resolve disputes. At present time, persons must sue in court to
resolve violations of the Open Meetings or Public Records Acts. The expense of court
cases prevents most people from challenging Open Meetings or Public Records
violations. The ability to place a complaint with the Ethics Commission would enable
many more people challenge violations of the law.
 Also, Senate Bill 2983, includes a provision, Ethics Commission enforce the Public
Records and Open Meetings Acts, along with many other provisions. It is sponsored by
Senator Flowers, Chair of the Ethics Committee. He has said that he will propose a
committee substitute, which will have provisions and wording he wants to bring forward.
Therefore, we don’t know just what provisions either chairman with bring up in
committee. It is an opportune time for members of the public to speak to the committee
chairmen to insure that the final bill includes provisions to increase openness.

Another provision of Senate Bill 2983 expands the number of people who file Statements
of Economic Interest with the Ethics Commission, expands what is reported, and
increases the enforcement provisions for failure to file. Throwing the sunshine on
officials’ economic interest helps prevent conflicts of interest. This provision is also
found in House Bill 1212 sponsored by Ed Blackmon.

ACTION NEEDED
Contact the committee chairmen for these bills and show your support. Ask them to be
sure that the provisions listed above are included in the final version of the bills

CONTACT INFORMATION
Representative Ed Blackmon, Chairman of House Judiciary A Committee
E-Mail: eblackmon@mail.house.state.ms.us
Phone (Capitol office): 601-359-3388

Senator Gray Tollison, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Division B
E-mail: gtollison@senate.ms.gov
Phone (Capitol Switchboard): 601-359-3770

Merle Flowers
E-mail: mflowers@senate.ms.gov
Phone (Capitol Switchboard): 601-359-3770




Barbara Powell
Legislative Liaison
Common Cause / Mississippi

				
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