By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City — In a rare win for Democrats in the Republican-majority Missouri Legislature, the Missouri Senate unanimously passed a bill sponsored by State Sen. Jill Schupp, (D-Creve Coeur) restoring and strengthening protections for government whistleblowers.
“Government whistleblowers help to expose waste, fraud and corruption,” Schupp said. “Last year, government whistleblowers had their protections taken away. Today, the Missouri Senate took a major step forward in restoring these protections and putting a stop to government secrecy. I look forward to working with legislators in the Missouri House of Representatives to get this bipartisan legislation across the finish line.”
The measure, Senate Bill 786, includes provisions to increase transparency and taxpayer protections, and put an end to the non-disclosure agreements that have been misused to hide inappropriate behavior from the public.
Last year, Republican Governor Eric Greitens signed Senate Bill 43 into law, removing protections for government whistleblowers and making suing for discrimination more difficult. Seven bills – six from Democrats and one from a Republican – have been filed this year to reverse all or parts of the bill.
Schupp’s legislation restores the whistleblower protections and expands them to include local government employees.
The legislation includes prosecutors, law enforcement, news media and the public as persons or entities to whom employees could report wrongdoing, including violations of law or mismanagement, waste of government resources, abuse of power, ethical breaches or “alteration of technical findings or communication of scientific opinion.”
The measure would extend to one year the period in which an employee can allege that disciplinary action was taken against them in response to their disclosure and would forbid confidentiality agreements, or gag orders when payments are made to someone from the state’s legal expense fund.
For more information on Sen. Schupp’s legislation, visit her official Missouri Senate website at senate.mo.gov/schupp.