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Archive for Friday, January 25, 2013

Editorial: Open government

January 25, 2013

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A tip of the hat is due to Jacob LaTurner, a Republican from Pittsburg, who took his seat in the Kansas Senate for the first time this month.

LaTurner has introduced a number of measures that he said he hopes will “make sure we are the most ethical, the most transparent state in the country.” His bills deal with term limits, restrictions on lobbying and nepotism, and bolstering the state’s open-government laws, including those dealing with open meetings and open records.

As might be expected, his proposals are not entirely met with open arms by his colleagues under the capitol dome. One such bill would halt the practice of government bodies charging for staff time to fulfill Kansas Open Records Act requests. The bill instead would cap those charges at the 25 cents per page copying fee the current law established. Those “staff time” charges, as the Journal-World and others have learned, can balloon into substantial estimates that deter the use of the statute — and often turn out to be either negotiable or extremely exaggerated. Although others in the Senate have voiced disagreement, LaTurner contends that the copying fee is sufficient to cover staff time.

Another provision of his proposal would require that minutes be kept at any meeting that is subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. That seems less offensive to his fellow legislators.

If there’s one major benefit to having such measures introduced right off the bat in the legislative session, it may be that the discussion and debate will serve to inform lawmakers — especially those newly elected to their positions — about the provisions of KORA and KOMA.

Too often it’s easy for elected officials at all levels of government simply to plead ignorance of these laws after they’re caught violating them. And unfortunately, the punishment meted out in almost every instance is for the violators to get training about the laws.

Perhaps LaTurner’s bill should be amended to require all elected officials to get such training immediately upon taking office. That would effectively put them on notice about the importance of KOMA and KORA and also make clear that ignorance is no excuse for any violation. The public, after all, is hardly well-served by ignorant officeholders.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

How did this guy slip through the Koch Bros./Kansas Chamber of Commerce vetting process for ideological purity?

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 months ago

Maybe that "Koch Bros./Kansas Chamber of Commerce vetting process for ideological purity" is just a delusion in the minds of paranoid people who have been brainwashed by the Chairman Mao's little red book/Common Cause school of left wing nut ideological purity.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 months ago

I thought my comment kinda funny. Oh, well, I guess I need to keep my day job rather than pursuing a career in comedy.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 months ago

I agree that Kansas has taken a dive off the sanity cliff. That's why even I, with a strong muddled middle bent, voted for every Democrat on this past ballot, with the notable exception of President, where I voted for my traditional third party. No, I didn't particularly like every Democrat I voted for. Yes, I wanted to send Topeka a message. That said, there are a number of places in this country where liberals reigns supreme. They are as nutty as Kansas, just at the other extreme. My intent with my first post was to caution not only against the extreme right, but the extreme left as well. That may not seem pertinent here in Kansas, except that in another thread, on another day, I mentioned what I thought was the most progressive city in America. Someone corrected me, mentioning another. So I googled most progressive cities in America and found many surveys giving many choices. A Yahoo survey from 2010 said the most progressive city in America was none other than good old Lawrence, Kansas. I smiled at that. I'm pleased to know that Lawrence's progressive leanings go a long way towards balancing Topeka's conservativeness. I'm happy the Supreme Court balances the Presidency. I'm happy the House balances the Senate.

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jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

I would find it hard to agree that Lawrence is the most progressive city in America.

It's a bit liberal for KS, but other than that, not much in the way of progressive, as far as I can tell. Our bus system is badly designed for many people to use, biking and walking isn't easy in Lawrence, we routinely give developers tax abatements, etc.

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Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

I thought it was funny. They say if you poke a pig, he will squeal.

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Keith 1 year, 7 months ago

I see a primary challenge in his future.

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headdoctor 1 year, 7 months ago

LaTurner must have some down field blockers helping. Freshmen law makers don't usually get very far the first few rounds.

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Lynn Grant 1 year, 7 months ago

LaTurner is a Koch, Commerce, Crossland, Brownback product. It is easy for him to say what he wants, his party has super majority. So if it makes him look good, he can say it or vote for it. The party bosses will cover his a$$ and he will fall in line when needed.

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mycatsrightorwrong 1 year, 7 months ago

This is actually a terrible bill. If governments can't charge staff time, there's no way to deter frivolous requests. ONE person (likely from the hills of Idaho, packing an AR-15 & Timothy McVeigh autograph) could go into a city or state agency, request all emails for the last 2 years, or cell phone records, and shut the agency/city down as staff gather those records. New "Open Records" personnel would have to be hired to manage the requests since there'd be no deterrent, and the burden of the requests would shift from the requesters to the general public. That means increased taxes for all Lawrence/state taxpayers, rather than a cost to the requester alone.

Everybody talks about rights: rights to health care, education, a living wage, etc., but people never talk about the fact that rights cost money, usually the money of other people. You want a right to open government, but you want everybody else to pay for it. I call BS, pay for it yourself.

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