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Archive for Friday, February 14, 2003

Expansion of state’s sunshine law urged

Media representatives want advisory groups under law’s umbrella

February 14, 2003

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— A bill expanding the Kansas Open Meetings Act to cover more advisory groups and task forces would improve government, news media representatives told a House committee this week.

The measure would require such groups to have public sessions and notify the public of their meetings, even if they were appointed by officials who had been elected but had not yet taken office.

Currently, groups appointed by officials-elect don't have to comply with the meetings law.

The House bill would apply at all levels of government. A separate Senate version would apply to task forces and advisory groups formed by state, city and county officials and some school boards.

Harriet Lange, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, said the Senate bill did not go far enough.

Rick Thames, editor of The Wichita Eagle, said that with more people participating in government meetings, "better things can happen."

But Don Moler, lobbyist for the League of Kansas Municipalities, opposed the bill as restricting officials' ability to talk in private.

Both measures were introduced in response to the closed meetings held before Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' inauguration by advisory teams she had appointed to review state government.

Fourteen news organizations, including The Associated Press, the Lawrence Journal-World, the broadcasters and The Eagle, sued her. A Shawnee County district judge ruled the meetings law did not apply to Sebelius' teams until after she took office. The news organizations appealed.

Moler said legislators should wait for a decision on the appeal.

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