Topeka The House budget-writing committee Monday decided to postpone action on what to do with the Kansas Human Rights Commission until later in the session.
Gov. Sam Brownback has said he wants to move the commission into the attorney general’s office. Brownback says the proposal would save the state $231,000 in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Commission officials and numerous advocates, however, oppose that plan.
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the commission should remain an independent agency.
“They have become a model for other agencies around the nation,” Ballard said.
The commission investigates complaints alleging discrimination in the areas of employment, public accommodations and housing, as well as racial profiling in conjunction with traffic stops.
Commission officials have said moving the agency into the attorney general’s office would set up conflicts because sometimes the commission investigates complaints against state agencies, and it is the attorney general’s office that defends those agencies.
But Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said he supported Brownback’s proposal. Rhoades added that he once had an unpleasant interaction with the commission.
A constituent of his who owns a restaurant was subjected to a long investigative process by the commission based on a bogus complaint, he said.
Ballard suggested that Rhoades may have been dealing with a commission employee who wasn’t doing his or her job properly, and that he should follow up and make sure that behavior is corrected.
The committee decided to wait until later in the session to determine whether to adhere to the governor’s plan. So far, no legislation has been considered to move the commission to the attorney general’s office.