Government Transparency May Be Coming

Jan 23, 2018 by

A series of articles in the Kansas City Star starting back in November revealed to the public what insiders under the dome have known for years – the Kansas legislature often operates in secret.

Things have become much worse in recent years with the actions of agencies now often hidden and with information apparently withheld.

The Star articles revealed three very disturbing trends in the Legislature.

  1. Nearly all legislation is introduced anonymously,
  2. the prevalence of a procedure known as “gut and go” is used to pass legislation on “hot button” issues that would cause many Kansans to object, and
  3. committee votes, where most decisions are made, are kept unrecorded making it impossible to really know how legislators are voting on issues.

There are other issues as well but those three make following a bill from start to finish and understanding how legislators vote nearly impossible.

The revelations in the Star series and the public outcry since has resulted in enough pressure on legislators that they appear to be ready to make some changes.

The first statutory change is in a proposal by Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) that would require bills introduced in committee to include the name of the person who requested them and follow the bill through the legislative process.

This week, House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) ordered committee chairs in the House to stop allowing bills to be introduced without identifying the sponsors. Earlier, Ryckman had told the Star’s Editorial Board that there would be “unintended consequences” if members started putting their names on bills. He was referring especially to the “gut and go” procedure under which a bill is amended by removing all of the original language and inserting something entirely unrelated. It would be troublesome to have sponsored one idea and then have your name on a totally unrelated idea later.

The Star also reported that in the 2017 legislative session 94% of bills that became law had no sponsor listed and that half of the abortion bills passed in the last 10 years were the result of a “gut and go” amendment.

Today the House and Senate Democrats offered a list of proposals that would end much of the secrecy in Topeka including changes in legislative procedures and more restrictions on lobbyists.

So it is just possible that it will be easier to track legislation in the future!

And if you are counting, 14 of 70 bills introduced in the House as of last Thursday carried the name of one or more sponsors. The other 56 are anonymous committee bills.

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