Government & Politics

Proposal to end anonymous bills in Kansas hits roadblock

It’s not like ‘Schoolhouse Rock’: How bills become law in Kansas

The once-rare scheme has become standard practice in the Sunflower State — a way to resurrect bills left for dead and to circumvent public attention on often controversial measures. Here's how it works.
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The once-rare scheme has become standard practice in the Sunflower State — a way to resurrect bills left for dead and to circumvent public attention on often controversial measures. Here's how it works.

A proposal that would have required greater disclosure of what organizations are pushing legislation in Kansas failed to advance Friday when it ran into a rules challenge in the Kansas House.

During Friday’s budget debate, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Republican, offered a proviso that would have required the names of a lawmaker requesting a piece of legislation to be recorded in committee minutes and to be listed on the print copy of all bills.

In addition, if a lawmaker brings the bill on behalf of a company or advocacy group, the name of that organization would be listed on the bill. The legislation is intended to put a permanent end to the practice of anonymous legislation, which has grown increasingly commonplace in Topeka.

A Star investigation last year found that for the past decade more than 90 percent of all legislation passed in Topeka had lacked a named sponsor.

House leaders have taken steps to curb the practice in the wake of the Star’s series on transparency, but Clayton contended that a more permanent fix is needed.

Her legislation would have also required all committee votes to be recorded in an effort to increase transparency in the legislative process. Right now, most committee votes that lawmakers take are not recorded.

Clayton faced objections from the No. 3 Republican in the Kansas House, Speaker Pro Tem Scott Schwab.

Schwab first challenged the amendment as non-germane to the overall budget bill. After the rules committee found the amendment was germane, Schwab challenged it on the grounds that it violated a House rule that says the rules of the House can only be changed by a resolution.

The rules committee sided with Schwab on the second challenge, halting Clayton’s proposal from moving forward.

Clayton said in a text message that the resistance she has faced in her push for transparency “is very telling, both in regards to the state of our government, and the worthiness of this cause.”

Rep. Blaine Finch, the Ottawa Republican who chairs the House committee, said that he plans to hold a meeting at the end of the session to discuss proposals from Clayton and other lawmakers to change the House rules.

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