The More We Know

There is no more true fact in politics than this: when voters have all the information they need, they make better decisions about who represents them in government. Politics is weighed down with images of smoke-filled back rooms, fat cats and lobbyists, scandals and corruption. Transparency is paramount in building the confidence of voters in their government, and igniting a real revolution in voter engagement.

Last week, Kansas legislators fell over themselves to propose transparency measures designed to do just that in an election year. In addition to the perennial efforts by Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R) to push transparency legislation, now legislative leadership has seen the light (pun intended) and Democrats have mounted a full party effort as well.

Let's break it down.

Bill sponsorship

Rep. Clayton has been working, most recently, to ensure that bills introduced in the Kansas legislature are attributed to the legislator(s) who are backing them. As it stands now, bills can be introduced anonymously, and often are. The Kansas City Star found in their investigation of transparency that last year 94% of bills passed where not attributed to any lawmaker. Last week, House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R) declared that he did not think legislation was needed, and instead directed lawmakers to ensure names of sponsors, legislators or lobbyists, be included in committee minutes. However, several lawmakers have expressed their desire to see these rules enshrined in law, and we agree. Rules can be changed by subsequent leaders. Rep. Clayton has filed HB 2548, and received the support of fully a third of House members.

Democrats ask for sweeping changes

At a press conference, Democrats in the Kansas Legislature asked for a number of transparency issues. Among them, requiring recorded votes on amendments on the floor and in committees, and an end to the "gut-and-go" practice of bypassing legislative processes. In addition to legislative measures, they are also asking to require all voting machines maintain paper ballot records. They did not, at this event, ask for a bill sponsorship transparency law as discussed above.

What's next?

These transparency measures have bill numbers, and we will be tracking their progress through the Legislature. Their fate will be largely determined by leadership and committee chairs, before they would come to a vote in committee, or on the floor.

Follow along with us, and when it comes time to act, we will let you know. In the meantime, keep in touch with your legislators, and be sure they know your opinion on transparency issues.

It starts here. With you.

Do more than vote.

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