Archive for Wednesday, November 30, 1994

NETWORK PROVIDES LINK FOR GOVERNMENTS

November 30, 1994

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Local officials can now check their e-mail to track legislation.

Douglas County and the city of Lawrence will be able to ride the information superhighway directly into the Kansas Statehouse and put the brakes on new mandates taxpayers can't afford.

John Torbert, executive director of the Kansas Association of Counties, said local governments were rebelling against directives that didn't come with money for implementation.

``Mandates really are a way of the state legislature passing on cost to local government,'' Torbert said.

``It puts (local governments) in the position of finding funding for programs they didn't prioritize,'' he said, citing the 1986 statewide reappraisal legislation as an example.

The League of Kansas Municipalities and the KAC will be plugging networks of their members into the Information Network of Kansas, where they'll be able to track legislation. Local governments also will have an expedient way to tell state budget officials how proposed mandates will affect local coffers.

Don Moler, the League's general counsel, explained that the state budget director, who must identify the fiscal effects of proposed legislation, used to make written requests for information. The League then had to solicit input from its member cities. But requests often carried deadlines just a few days away, which couldn't always be met.

``There's zillions of these bills,'' Moler said. ``We might get 15 to 20 requests a day. What's the impact of this? What's the impact of that bill?''

Last year, the League began soliciting information from about two dozen member cities by way of electronic mail. Harry Herington, the League's associate general counsel, said state budget officials forwarded the cities' input directly to lawmakers.

``Now (state budget officials) are not doing as much of the impact analysis as the cities are,'' Herington said.

David Corliss, assistant to the Lawrence city manager, said he didn't have the computer equipment to participate last year in the input phase of the project but appreciated the immediate access to newly proposed legislation.

This will be the first time the KAC has participated, and Torbert said he hoped to get 20 to 30 counties involved.

Douglas County commissioners have not discussed whether they'll join the network, but Commissioner Mark Buhler said he would like to see the county take a stand on the issue of mandates.

``I think unfunded mandates have gotten nothing but lip service,'' Buhler said.

``States are getting it on one end (from the federal government) and passing it along on the other,'' he said.

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