BRYANT URGES LEGISLATORS TO STRENGTHEN OPEN MEETINGS LAW
 
JACKSON – Mississippi law states that when a public official disobeys the Open Meetings Law, taxpayer money is used to pay any fine imposed because of the violation.
 
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant wants this changed.
 
“Not only is the public official breaking the Open Meetings Law, but then the taxpayers foot the bill for the violation,” Bryant said. “This must stop.”
 
The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill last year that would have corrected the issue, but it failed in the House.
 
The bill would increase the maximum fine to $1,000 per violation for each violator. No public funds would be used to pay the fine.
 
“Sunshine is a great disinfectant,” said Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Olive Branch, chair of the Ethics Committee.  “The Open Meetings and Open Records provisions in the bill will help our government be more transparent and accountable to our citizens.”
 
The legislation also creates a violation if a person is unlawfully denied access to public records. Violators would be responsible for paying a fee of up to $100 per violation, plus reasonable expenses incurred from the incident (attorney fees, etc.).
 
“Senate Bill 2289 adds teeth to Mississippi’s current Open Meetings Law, and I am hopeful the House of Representatives will take this legislation up,” Bryant said.
 
Lawmakers are considering another bill that aims to increase accountability in government. Senate Bill 2596, would increase the fines on political candidates and office holders who do not submit their required “economic interest” forms.
 
Bryant said fines would be increased from $10 per day to $100 per day.
 
“This bill helps to ensure no public servants are using their office to financially benefit at the expense of the public,” Bryant said.
 
Both SB 2289 and 2596 are expected to come up for a vote by the full Senate on Thursday.
 
SB 2289, Sen. Merle Flowers: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2011/pdf/history/SB/SB2289.xml
 
SB 2596, Sen. Merle Flowers: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2011/pdf/history/SB/SB2596.xml
 
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Phil Bryant Press Release
1/19/11