Archive for Monday, October 3, 2011

Statehouse Live: Ethics Commission says legislators can use campaign funds to pay for office water coolers

October 3, 2011, 11:46 a.m. Updated October 3, 2011, 2:49 p.m.


— The state ethics commission says that legislators can dip into their campaign funds to pay for water coolers in their offices.

The opinion by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission followed a cost-cutting move approved by the Legislature and an initiative by Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard.

During the last legislative session, legislators eliminated using tax dollars to pay for water coolers in their offices. That cut the availability of drinking water in the six-floor building to two first-floor water fountains.

But during an interim committee meeting this summer, Kelsey found himself on the fifth floor. “I was thirsty as all get out,” he said, when he realized he would have to go to the first floor to get a drink of water.

Kelsey said he imagined constituents visiting his office during the next session and being unable to offer them water.

He didn’t like that, so he figured out how much it would cost for each legislator to get water and a cooler in his or her office. It came out to $65 per legislator.

He then sent letters to all 165 legislators asking them to pay $65. He said he would have someone handle all the paperwork and get the Department of Legislative Administrative Services to audit the account.

He also sought an opinion from the Ethics Commission on whether legislators could use their campaign funds to provide drinking water in their Capitol offices.

Under state law, no political contributions can be used for the personal use of a candidate. Political donations, however, can be used for the expenses of holding public office.

“A reasonable and customary practice for any professional place of work, including legislative offices, is to have drinking water available for visiting persons, as well as for staff who work there,” stated the commission’s opinion, which was written last week. “Thus, a legitimate expense of holding the political office of legislator would be the purchase of drinking water for the availability of visitors and staff.”

Kelsey said on Monday that many of his colleagues have already sent checks for the water and thank-you notes.

“We are going to replace the water exactly as we had it before,” he said. “I wanted to fix a problem.”

He also criticized the $285 million Capitol renovation project, saying that once it is finished it won’t provide enough public drinking fountains.

Officials said when the renovation is completed there will be six fountains: two on the first floor and four in a ground floor visitor center.


tolawdjk 6 years, 8 months ago

You mean to tell me that with the wads of money we have been throwing at remodeling state buildings we haven't been able to run a frackin water line to put in a few meesly water coolers?

Reminds me of the EPA building (HQ in DC no less) I was in that had signs telling you not to drink the water in the bathrooms.

Hooligan_016 6 years, 8 months ago

Well thank goodness that was cleared up. When did it become so difficult to bring a reusable bottle/container from home?

hujiko 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm shocked Brownback hasn't told them he doesn't want the water after all.

ivalueamerica 6 years, 8 months ago

Brownback needs the water, that what he walks he thinks.

Phillbert 6 years, 8 months ago

“We are going to replace the water exactly as we had it before,” [Kelsey] said. “I wanted to fix a problem.”

Yes, a problem you and your colleagues caused. And he presents this as some sort of great accomplishment.

Michael Rowland 6 years, 8 months ago

How is providing water to people an ethical issue?

Ken Lassman 6 years, 8 months ago

Heavens, yes! The Romans had it wrong--it's not bread and circus, it's WATER and circus, apparently. Aren't you glad that of all the issues facing our towns and state, that this little nugget has surfaced for the media to focus on?

mloburgio 6 years, 8 months ago

Kansas Legislator Pensions Inflated More Than Ten Fold The average Kansas legislator with 20 years in the Capitol as of 2011 is eligible for a $29,162 annual pension if he retires at the end of this year. That’s more than ten times what he would receive if the pension was calculated just on salary.

A recent report in USA Today shows that state legislators in most states inflate their pensions by basing pensions on a higher percentage of salary, adding expenses to salaries or using some other inflationary calculation.

Only 11 states offer no legislative pension or the same plan as other state employees.

jaywalker 6 years, 8 months ago

In other breaking news: Two squirrels irritated a dog this morning. We'll have more on this story as it develops.

formerfarmer 6 years, 8 months ago

Maybe they could close all the restrooms in the building and the legislators could pay for port-a-pots instead, using campaign funds.

jaywalker 6 years, 8 months ago

Be on the lookout for gray squirrels with big, pointy teeth; they'd gnaw your neck and eat your heart out just for pleasure! They tend to be distracted by bird feeders and peanut butter slathered on corn cobs hanging from ropes tied to low-hanging tree branches. The dog has not yet been identified due to J-W policy.

Sylvie Rueff 6 years, 8 months ago

What happened to the day when public buildings had to offer free drinking fountains? Now we have refrigerated water in bottles, which fill the landfills, pollute the oceans and cost individuals and the planet unmercifully. It's insanity! How much per year would it cost to put a couple of drinking fountains on each floor? (We might even be able to run them with solar power.)

George_Braziller 6 years, 8 months ago

The capitol used to have drinking fountains on every floor near the elevators so the plumbing is still probably there.

How much would it cost per year? How about a one-time expense. You can buy a drinking fountain for about $375. Add on the expense for a plumber to mount it, connect it to the plumbing and plug it in. Looking at something like a maximum of $850.00.

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