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Archive for Tuesday, February 20, 2007

GOP bill would eliminate political picks

February 20, 2007

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— Republicans on a Senate committee Monday recommended legislation that would prevent Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, from appointing someone to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy.

And GOP members of the Elections and Local Government Committee appeared reluctant to accept measures that would prohibit elected officials from lobbying for two years after they leave office and require timely disclosure of campaign contributions in the final days of an election.

The bill concerning replacing a U.S. senator from Kansas was sent to the full Senate with only Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, in dissent.

Under current law, should a U.S. senator from Kansas resign from office during his or her term, the governor would appoint a temporary replacement who would serve until the next general election.

But under Senate Bill 152 by state Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, the governor would have to call a special election to fill the vacancy.

Some have suggested Pyle's measure was an attempt to short-circuit a Sebelius appointment to the Senate should U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., resign. Brownback is running for the Republican nomination for president.

But Pyle denied that partisan politics had anything to do with his bill, saying that in the future, his proposal could affect a Republican governor.

"People should have a say" on the replacement senator, he said.

But Francisco said she opposed Pyle's bill because of the $2 million price tag for a statewide special election.

On another issue, the Republican chairman of the committee, Sen. Tim Huelskamp of Fowler, said he was reluctant to advance a Democratic proposal to prohibit legislators and statewide elected officials from becoming lobbyists for two years after they leave office.

Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said the legislation was needed "to stop the practice of public service leading to private payoff."

Numerous elected officials have become lobbyists almost immediately after leaving office. The latest example is Doug Mays, who retired as speaker of the House in January and now, just weeks later, is representing special interests as a lobbyist.

Hensley said his legislation wasn't aimed at any particular person, but said it was simply good public policy to stop the "revolving door" of elected officials becoming lobbyists.

But later Huelskamp said aside from Hensley testifying in support of the bill, there seemed to be no interest in it.

Some committee members also criticized a proposal by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission to require reporting of large donations in the 11 days prior to an election.

Currently, those donations aren't reported until months after the general election.

"This postelection reporting of last-minute contributions does not provide the citizens of Kansas the opportunity to view these contributions in a timely fashion," said Donna Voth, general counsel of the Ethics Commission.

But state Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, questioned whether the public was interested in that information.

"How much of the public really cares about this? Very few would be my guess," Donovan said.

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