UPDATE: Bill expanding public notice goes to Missouri governor

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | 6:08 p.m. CDT

 JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians would get more advance notice about public meetings involving taxes under legislation sent Wednesday to Gov. Jay Nixon.

The state now requires governing bodies to post notice of all public meetings at least 24 hours in advance — either on a website or in a prominent public place.

Under the bill, four days' notice would be required before any meeting on tax increases, creation of special taxing districts or use of eminent domain. The Senate gave final approval to the bill Wednesday; the House passed it earlier this week.

The legislation also bars governing bodies from voting on taxes until after people have had a chance to comment during a public hearing.

Sponsoring Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said the public deserves more of a chance to comment on proposed tax increases.

A similar provision in a bill that died last year drew support from representatives of a labor union and retailers, who said cities sometimes give developers more notice than the public when officials are going to be considering development incentives.

Missouri Municipal League interim director Richard Sheets said this year's legislation was written in response to an argument between a St. Louis area developer and some retailers who felt they didn't get adequate notice of meetings on a transportation development district.

Stores within these development districts charge up to 1 percent in special sales taxes to help pay for infrastructure such as roads, bus stops and interchanges. Developers like the tax because they recoup their costs, but retailers fear the additional cost could encourage shoppers to go elsewhere — and object they don't have a say in whether they will have to charge it.

Missouri Press Association executive director Doug Crews said lawmakers working on changes to the state Sunshine Law focused on issues that directly affect citizens and retailers instead of trying to expand public notice for all government meetings.

"I think this is a good step, although it is pretty narrow," Crews said. He said that 24 hours notice isn't enough notice for any meeting.



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