Dear Representative Finch, as you know the Kansas City Star published an expose of the non-transparent practices used by the Kansas Legislature in conducting the people’s business. In addition to the KC Star article, the Star sponsored a recent public town hall on the topic, where a former GOP legislator, two current GOP legislators, a Democratic legislator and an attorney for Fox 4 News participated. All of these participants not only confirmed the KC Star reporting, but revealed additional non-transparent practices.
Like many other Kansans, I am shocked and dismayed by the use of these secretive and deceptive practices to conduct the people’s business. Also revealed in the Town Hall was the fact that the deceptive practices used in the Kansas Legislature are not the standard used in the majority of states. The excuse put forth by some in the Legislature is that Kansas needs to employ these tactics to achieve “good” legislation and meet time deadlines does not meet the “smell” test.
It is my understanding that as Chair of the Judiciary Committee, legislation introduced to correct these deceptive practices is referred to your committee. I also understand that you, as Judiciary Committee chair, have total power to determine what bills are “heard and worked” and thus the power to “kill the bill”. Therefore I ask you to serve the people of Kansas honorably by “hearing and working” all bills referred to your committee that would make statutory changes to eliminate these “dark” practices, including, but not limited to: anonymous bill sponsorship, unrecorded committee votes, “gut and go”, bill “bundling” for voting purposes and special provisions provided to lobbyists regarding access to votes taken by legislators that are denied to the press and ordinary citizens.
One such bill has already been referred, HB 2548, that directly addresses many of the practices listed above. I request that HB 2548 be “heard and worked”. And in reviewing this bill, I see that about one-third of the House has signed on. It is also my understanding that leadership of the Kansas Legislature maintains that it has “fixed” the problems by making “policy” changes that are actually not even official “rules” changes. This is inadequate as a measure to correct these transparency issues.
I ask you to commit to a higher level of action. We need statutory change to assure that this or future legislatures do not return to practices of secrecy and deception. “Past is Prologue”. Thank you for your service and please continue your past habits of reasoned and open dialogue. Please do not yield to “leadership” that seems to be looking for a way to engineer a superficial “fix” that allows easy return to these dark practices.