Archive for Monday, February 11, 2013

Statehouse Live: Fight over taxpayer-financed lobbying ensues

February 11, 2013


— A bill prohibiting the use of public funds to lobby the Legislature was hailed by supporters as a way to protect taxpayers, but opponents said it would stifle crucial, local input on important issues.

A hearing on Senate Bill 109 drew a standing-room-only crowd before the Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee.

After the hearing, Chairman Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, said he was unsure of what the committee would do with the bill, which has the support of the Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

Under SB 109, no public funds could be used directly or indirectly for lobbying. In addition, the measure would prohibit public funds from being used to pay for lobbying services or for membership dues to an association that is engaged in lobbying. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor.

The bill would allow government officers or employees to communicate with a member of the Legislature if they were asked.

Don Moler, executive director of the League of Kansas Municipalities, said the bill would effectively outlaw his organization, in addition to a number of other local government associations that regularly have lobbyists testify to the Legislature.

"Stifling discussion is not the democratic way. Passing laws prohibiting some from petitioning the Legislature is not the democratic way. Muzzling the opposition is about as un-democratic as it gets," Moler said.

Several city, county and school district officials from across the state urged the committee to reject the bill.

They said they don't have the time to monitor all bills in the Kansas Legislature and depended on city and county associations to keep an eye on legislation that affects their constituents.

Manhattan Mayor Loren Pepperd said lobbyists helped the city develop its airport, win the federal National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and get highway improvements.

Clancy Holeman, an attorney for Riley County, said the ability for local officials to lobby the Legislature was crucial several years ago when lawmakers approved a bill that dealt with buffer requirements between Fort Riley and residential development. "We had a much better bill that passed" because of those discussions, he said.

Questions also arose if local chambers of commerce and businesses that receive some public funding would be prevented from conferring with legislators.

But Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn said when he was the head of the Kansas Taxpayers Network and testified in the Legislature against spending or taxes, he was often opposed by taxpayer-paid lobbyists representing cities or school districts.

"We need an equal and level playing field and that does not exist when tax dollars are used," Peterjohn said.

Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said she resented taxapyer-paid lobbyists for cities testifying against gun rights.

And Earl McIntosh of Topeka said he believed that only private organizations should have the right to lobby.

Chairman Pyle said he believed associations representing cities and counties could be formed without the use of tax dollars, similar to how he pays dues to the Kansas Farm Bureau to represent his interests. Asked if his state legislative salary is used to pay those dues, he said that wouldn't matter.

"You pay a teacher that is paid with public funds, but when the teacher receives that money that then is private funds and that teacher can do what they want with their money. It's their paycheck," he said.


Richard Heckler 5 years ago

ALEC at Work = Stifling Free Speech

Americans for Prosperity = ALEC = Koch

Hooligan_016 5 years ago

If AFP supports it, then that right there is an automatic red flag that it is a bad policy.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Unfortunately ALEC and a large majority of the republican party got married to the idea that working class blue and white collars make too much money. Talk about living in glass houses. Right to Work means lower wages.

ALEC and Repubs are about busting unions and so is Senate Bill 109 which is about YOU working for less money Union or NOT = monster corporate profits!!.

ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that.

In ALEC's own words, corporations have "a VOICE and a VOTE" on specific changes to the law that are then proposed in your state. DO YOU?

"Don Moler, executive director of the League of Kansas Municipalities, said the bill would effectively outlaw his organization, in addition to a number of other local government associations that regularly have lobbyists testify to the Legislature"

United States of ALEC – Bill Moyers

ALEC – The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in State Legislatures

ALEX EXPOSED – The Koch Connection

ALEC – Ghostwriting The Law for Corporate America


ALEC Private Schools - Corporate Education Reformers Plot Next Steps at Secretive Meeting

Senate Bill 109 = very big state state government taking a stand against democracy!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years ago

When two tax supported entities fight, the winners are the lawyers, the losers are the taxpayers.

question4u 5 years ago

"We need an equal and level playing field and that does not exist when tax dollars are used," Peterjohn said.

Who but the most feeble minded could think that this bill has anything to do with creating equality? If you don't like lobbying and you want a "level playing field" you eliminate all lobbying. If you don't like lobbying from people who oppose your agenda and you don't care a fig about democracy, then you try to stifle opposing views.

Is there anyone in the Kansas Legislature who cares about democracy? What about ethics? Are there any Americans left in the Kansas Legislature?

mycatsrightorwrong 5 years ago

So now our cities only get input in Topeka when asked by Legislators? What is wrong with these people? How could anyone think this is good for Kansas? If you don't like what the cities are saying, DISAGREE and move on!!! You don't have to ban them for Gods sake!

wastewatcher 5 years ago

This is a great bill and I support the Chairmans position that when one gets paid theycando what they want with the money. Way to much public/taxpayer money is spent and wasted, this is a great step to make an improvement in the use of public money.

Katara 5 years ago

Oh then you must be really opposing the current bill in the House that prohibits KNEA from having the voluntary contributions deducted from teachers' paychecks.

KSManimal 5 years ago

"But Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn said......

"We need an equal and level playing field and that does not exist when tax dollars are used," Peterjohn said."

Does this yahoo realize that the law he is lobbying for would make it illegal for him to lobby?

billbodiggens 5 years ago

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"The people have the right to assemble, in a peaceable manner, to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, for redress of grievances."

Does anyone in Topeka have any idea where these "radical" statements are written. . . Just wondering. . .

Paul R Getto 5 years ago

"You pay a teacher that is paid with public funds, but when the teacher receives that money that then is private funds and that teacher can do what they want with their money. It's their paycheck," he said.

When will they ever learn? Or will they ever bother to read the 1st Amendment? More money for lawyers.

Paul R Getto 5 years ago

Bold moves by Muscular Sam and ALEC. Trying to overturn everything since Runnymead. The ACLU should be busy soon.

chootspa 5 years ago

So this also means that public employees can't have their membership to professional non-union organizations funded if those organizations have any lobbyists? As in just about any professional organization these days?

mycatsrightorwrong 5 years ago

Yes, county clerks, librarians, special education teachers, police officers, firefighters, and many other public workers would have to drop out state and national associations that do even a little bit of lobbying. In other words, we'd be destroying decades of organic connections that have contributed to the functioning of our state - the most anti-conservative initiative I can imagine.

texburgh 5 years ago

I disagree. Pyle's statement at the end of the article says once you pay an employee that money is their's and not the state's so the employee can spend it on an organization that lobbies - KNEA, Fraternal Order of Police, International Fire Fighters, etc. What the bill does is say that tax money cannot be used for dues to a lobbying organization. School Boards pay enormous sums to KASB which lobbies. The money goes straight from taxpayers to KASB. That is what would be illegal under this bill.

grandnanny 5 years ago

No, the last bill the House passed said 'It's not our money to do with as we wish. If we give our money to a group to lobby for us or voice opinions about elections, that is illegal." Can't have it both ways. I think it is interesting that the legislature is willing to listen to Americans for Prosperity, the Chamber of Commerce, and any other right-wing group, but not willing to listen to its own cities. Who knows the most about what is going on locally?

Paul R Getto 5 years ago

"Prosperity" depends on which side of the mirror you use. Lewis Carroll would be proud.

bad_dog 5 years ago

I love literary references in the morning...

grandnanny 5 years ago

If I want my tax money to be used by my city to have a voice in State government, that is my right. I have not heard anyone complaining about our city spending money to provide much-needed information to the state government. The cities definitely need a voice to keep the State from running rough-shod over them. Latest bill introduced would keep cities from banning switchblades - what a crock. The State has also tried to interfere with cities that want to protect equal rights for gays and lesbians. What ever happened to "home rule" which was once a big part of Kansas government?

Larry Sturm 5 years ago

KANSAS LEGISLATORS should not be a member of A L E C that is a conflict of interest for the people of Kansas even though it bought the republican election.

Larry Sturm 5 years ago

At the pace we are going we won'tmhave government in our lifes we will have the rich and the poor like Mexico. We won't have to worry about imagration at that point.

Larry Sturm 5 years ago

At the pace we are going we won' t have government in our lifes we will have the rich and the poor like Mexico. We won't have to worry about imagration at that point.

grandnanny 5 years ago

The more I think about this, the more I wonder about the law of unintended consequences. So any organization that gets taxpayer money cannot voice its opinion. Thus, the Chamber of Commerce should just shut up. Many of its members get taxpayer money from subsidies, from keeping sales tax money, from special tax breaks, etc. So, the Chamber of Commerce is indirectly funded with taxpayer money. Just about every organization in the State that lobbies the State gets taxpayer money in some way or other. Kansas Legislators are taxpayer funded so they should not be allowed to form a PAC to support their election to the legislature. See how this legislation opens a "whole new can of worms." A young Republican friend of mine is an intern at the Statehouse this year and has been watching what is going on. He has seen the incompetency of these legislators up close - his words, not mine.

William Weissbeck 5 years ago

It is the nature of the beast that is a "mixed economy," not entirely private enterprise with only a caretaker government, nor a pure socialist system. As such there are all levels of government that have interests that are often adverse to private interests and often those interests (good public schools) are for the benefit of all. How is government at any level going to promote its interests if not through the use of "public funding?" If it's interest are harmonius with the public, then all benefit. And if not, they'll be voted out.

KSManimal 5 years ago

These yahoos use public money to finance their ALEC conference trip, where they are handed cookie-cutter legislation to ban OTHER people from using public money to lobby the legislature. Have these yahoos NO shame? NO integrity? NO brains?

"A number of Kansas legislators — all Republicans — are registered to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council annual conference that is under way in Salt Lake City.

Those registered to attend are state Sens. Julia Lynn of Olathe and Garrett Love of Montezuma; state Reps. Mike Burgess of Topeka, Terry Calloway of Pittsburg, Amanda Grosserode of Lenexa, Gary Hayzlett of Lakin, Joe Seiwert of Pretty Prairie, and Gene Suellentrop of Wichita.

Kansas taxpayers will be paying the registration fees of the legislators, according to the Kansas Legislative Administrative Services office. The fees are $475 each, except for Lynn and Suellentrop whose were $575 each due to late registration, according to the office."

Joe Hyde 5 years ago

Eventually, enough citizens will see that the law exempting 191,000 Kansas business owners from paying personal state income tax is an insidious attempt by AFP and ALEC to impose economic racism on our society. Voters will then go back to electing the sort of Republican and Democrat legislators who instinctively toss anti-democracy proposals like SB-109 into the nearest trash dumpster.

heights 5 years ago

There are many Kansas Legislators who are members of ALEC. Legislators receive money from companies that are members of ALEC. Hard to know how many of them pay the additional dues of $50 because the list isn't officially published. In some states, there are cases in which legislative ALEC dues have been paid with tax-payer funds, don't know if that is the case in KS.

So the question is...what are they getting and who is benefitting by putting up barriers to other groups who are trying to get input into our legislative process?

They have the keys to the kingdom, and we game them to them. It will be very hard to undo once it is done. The links below list members of the state legislature who are connected to ALEC and what involvement they have had.

ALEC claims its membership includes around 2,000 state legislators (“Public Sector Members”) and 300 corporate and corporate representatives (“Private Enterprise Members”). [19] “Public Sector Members” Elected legislators can join ALEC by paying a token fee of $50 a year. [20] While the membership fee for legislators is nominal, some legislators have used taxpayer dollars to pay it. For example, in Wisconsin, open records requests revealed that 12 senators, all Republicans, had their ALEC membership dues paid by taxpayer funds.[21] ALEC does not release the identities of its over legislative members. Some legislators tout their role in ALEC while others take a lower profile with ALEC. The Daily Kos blogger project, called Exposing ALEC, has been compiling a ALEC legislative member list, past and present, here. ALEC’s legislative board, legislative task force co-chairs, and legislative state co-chairs are almost all from the same political party. The legislators on the Board of Directors, as of June 6, 2011, are all Republican (see here). Only one person out of a little more than 100 in these roles appears to be a Democrat, as of July 2011.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

Many legislators get their governments to pay for their visits to ALEC conferences using public money. ALEC will have to shut down in Kansas.

Katara 5 years ago

I won't be shedding tears over that.

George_Braziller 5 years ago

This is all finally coming to a head and the pimple is about to pop.

Several years ago non-profit organizations were prohibited from using even spending $1.00 of any federal funds for salaries for individuals who might do any lobbying or were in any administrative position. Re-wrote and re-allocated monies in the budgets so the federal funds were exclusively spent on direct service.

Then the State prohibited flow-through Federal money to be spent on any advocacy so we re-allocated and re-wrote it again. With this proposal I guess they assume agencies and organizations are supposed to sit back let the Legislature decide funding for services in a void without having a clue what the needs are or any opportunity for discussion.

Paul R Getto 5 years ago

This is so unconstitutional and so transparent. More work for lawyers.

verity 5 years ago

Aren't all lawyers Democrats?

;-P (Not sure what that means, but it seems appropriate.)

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