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Bills Promise A Less Secret Kansas Government

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Kansas News Service
Lawmakers have begun to push for more openness in the Kansas Legislature and state agencies.

Over the decades, Republicans and Democrats both made it hard for the public to know what goes on in the Statehouse. But in the wake of a Kansas City Star series highlighting the lack of transparency, some members of both parties are pushing for change.

Recent days have seen a flurry of activity.

Republican and Democratic leaders called last weekfor lobbyists to disclose when they approach the governor or agencies about state contracts.

On Monday, House Speaker Ron Ryckman announced he would no longer let lawmakers file bills anonymously.

On Tuesday, Democrats touted a raft of other bills — some revived from past years, some new — that they say would make it easier for Kansans to hold their lawmakers and government agencies accountable.

The proposals range from recording all votes in the Legislature to barring lawmakers from gutting a bill and using it as a shell for other legislation.

Kansas City Sen. David Haley wants to shorten the time it takes for police to release body camera footage relevant to shootings.

“Body cameras work both ways,” Haley said at a press conference. “They protect law enforcement and the general public.”

A few of the Democrats’ other bills include:

  • Increasing penalties on agencies that fail to comply with open records and open meeting laws.
  • Releasing details on deaths or abuse of children who are in the state’s custody.
  • Keeping a central and public list of property that law enforcement agencies seize from private individuals.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter@Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original story.

I'm the creator of the environmental podcast Up From Dust. I write about how the world is transforming around us, from topsoil loss and invasive species to climate change. My goal is to explain why these stories matter to Kansas, and to report on the farmers, ranchers, scientists and other engaged people working to make Kansas more resilient. Email me at celia@kcur.org.
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