JEFFERSON CITY — After requesting and receiving million-dollar reports on lawsuits against the government, one state representative is proposing legislation to create transparency for taxpayers.

State Rep. Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) wants to know from Attorney General Josh Hawley why millions of dollars in state funds are syphoned by lawsuits ranging from excessive sexual harassment to a racetrack death at the state fair.  

State Rep. Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City)
State Rep. Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City)

“We have an obligation to regain that public trust, because that is who put is here," McCann Beatty told the St. Louis Record. "We are supposed to represent the public. The No. 1 priority is making sure the dollars we do spend are being spent appropriately.”

So far the bill, HB 858, has received bipartisan support with a 34-0 vote from the budget committee, McCann Beatty said.

“I hope we can get (it) out of the House and over to the Senate before it is too late," she said.

To date, judgements and settlements against the government have totaled $52 million in the past five years, and claim costs since February are at $17 million, McCann Beatty said.

Hawley said in a letter to legislators that “Missouri citizens deserve transparent and accountable government, especially in the expenditure of their tax dollars” and agreed to release a monthly report on any pending legal judgements or settlements to the representative, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

McCann Beatty said the budget committee has already released money in its spending authority, which is why scrutiny is so timely.

“The legislature needs to look at that and know where we are spending public dollars,” McCann Beatty said, noting negative trends of discrimination and sexual harassment particularly out of the Department of Corrections (DOC). “We should be paying much more attention that and, ultimately, maybe we need to file legislation if it can’t be fixed by a policy standpoint.”

The problem goes beyond the DOC, McCann Beatty said, noting that both the Department of Conservation and the Department of Transportation are also in question for large settlements, and they will be monitored for negative trends. She said that is why any legislation passed will have widespread effects.

“This is something we should do for all the departments,” she said. “I think the budget committee has been moving towards more transparency each year.”

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