Democrats in the House and Senate have presented four bills that support increasing government transparency and accountability, and I support these bills. Over the last few years, several gaps have been exposed in the transparency laws of our state including the Governor and his staff using personal email to conduct state business and claiming those emails are not subject to open record laws. This type of work around to the Kansas Open Records Act breaches the public trust and creates the impression of a shadow government. The four bills to help end such practices are as follows:
House Bill 2300 – Will end the use of private email accounts to conduct state business.
House Bill 2153 – Makes the process of awarding state contracts more open and adds layers of accountability by creating a database of the contracts and requiring efficiency studies on the contracts impact on Kansas.
A bill introduced later today in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Tom Holland caps legislators pay at 90 days during odd years when the biennial budgeting process takes place, and 60 days during even years, to avoid government waste.
Senate Bill 163 – Prohibits legislators and employees of the governor from becoming a lobbyist for two years following the end of their term or employment.
On Wednesday, a group called Open Kansas staged an event at the Capitol with the goal of raising awareness and advocacy of government transparency. The group was started as a result of the lack of transparency in state government. In the last few years we have seen the Governor’s staff conduct state business on personal email, members of the legislature push back against having committee hearings streamed online, and a lack of government records available as open records. The launching of this group was perfect timing as just last week the Democrats in the Legislature presented several bills aimed at increasing government transparency and accountability. Kansans deserve a more open and transparent government.
Representative John Bradford of Leavenworth introduced a bill recently that euphemistically calls for school district “realignment,” but actually consolidates the districts by more than half down to 132 districts. Under the bill, most districts would consolidate into a single district per county with only the most populous counties having more than a single school district. This bill does not take the geography of the various regions into consideration (such as how many hours children would need to be bussed for), nor does it take into consideration that many districts have already started sharing administrative services. I oppose the bill as it works as another band-aide to our failed tax policy, balancing our lack of revenue to the state with further cuts to the education budget.
Last year, when the legislature passed the budget for the judicial branch, an unconstitutional severability clause was placed in the budget, tying our courts’ funding to a specific judicial decision. At the time, the legislature was advised that the provision was unconstitutional, and outside the scope of the legislature’s authority. I opposed the unconstitutionally burdened budget last year. Fortunately, this session we voted to correct last year’s mistake to pass a measure eliminating the problematic clause, and funding the Kansas court system. The Senate held their vote on the same measure this week and it passed with a vote of 39-1. I was happy to see my Senate colleagues support the measure and ensure our courts remain open.
Local elected officials from Merriam and Johnson County were in the statehouse to talk about their needs. I value the working relationship I have with our elected officials back home and it is very important for us to work together to deliver services to our shared constituents. I thank them for taking the time to visit with me at the statehouse.
It is a privilege to serve as your state representative. I value your input on the issues facing our state. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 173W, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7366 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the legislative session online atwww.kslegislature.org.