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Wiemann pushes local government transparency legislation

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann has again filed legislation aimed at improving local government transparency. And with the tweaks he’s made to this year’s bill — as well as an early push for it — the Republican from St. Charles County is confident in its success. 

HD 1933 establishes the Local Government Transparency Database to be handled by the Office of Administration (OA). The database would make it easier for citizens to find information regarding a city or county’s financials, including date of payment, amount, to who, and for what purpose. 

State Rep. John Wiemann

“I felt that this was an issue that needed to be addressed and could be addressed relatively easily,” Wiemann told The Missouri Times. “It just makes sense to have the government move toward making information more accessible online.” 

The database would be voluntary for cities and counties but does allow voters to request participation. Five percent of the registered voters of a jurisdiction voting in the last general municipal election can require a county or city to participate, the bill states as it stands now. 

“One of the benefits that we believe for the citizens of Missouri and to the local governments is by putting that on the internet, by having that information available … rather than going to the city and wasting time and going through their process, you can literally go online and in a matter of minutes or seconds, pull up the information you’re looking for,” Wiemann said. “And that saves the city time and money because they don’t have to respond to your Sunshine request.” 

Wiemann championed similar legislation last year, but participation was mandatory in last year’s bill. A fiscal note has not yet been assigned to HB 1933. 

This year’s bill also included a provision that would allow for reimbursement subject to appropriations for any major costs the municipality would incur, Wiemann said. However, the lawmaker said he doesn’t expect any large costs. 

HB 1933 has already been referred to committee, and Wiemann said he’s hopeful it will be successful in both chambers. He expects it to move to the Senate by the beginning of February where he believes “we have a great chance to get it passed.” 

“I’m confident that the key to any legislation is to make it good legislation, and you have to get it out early enough in the legislative process to give it a fighting chance to get it through,” Wiemann said.