Editorial: Past time to end anonymous bills

It’s ridiculous that most of the bills that come through the Kansas Legislature are anonymous. Hopefully, a bill being introduced this session can change that.

State Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, has proposed legislation that would require bills that come through committee to include the name of the person who initiated the bill. Currently, state law allows bills that are introduced in committee to be sponsored by the committee, and individual names are not attached to them.

The Kansas City Star, in its recent investigative series on the lack of transparency in Kansas, reported that 94 percent of the bills that were passed during the last legislative session listed only a committee as the bill’s sponsor. This is not a new tactic — more than 90 percent of the bills approved in the past decade do not have names associated with them.

Kansas is unique in taking this approach. Although a handful of other states — Idaho, Iowa and West Virginia — allow committee bills, they all attach names to the bills by identifying either the originator of the bill or the members of the committee who are supporting it.

Only Kansas keeps its residents in the dark when it comes to identifying who’s behind legislation.

Clayton hopes to change that. “I want to make it so if you look up a bill online, you’ll know who the requester is, and who asked for it,” Clayton told the Associated Press.

Clayton’s bill faces an uphill battle. House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Senate Majority Leader Susan Wagle have expressed their opposition to such a change.

Ryckman said individuals don’t want to be associated with a bill because that bill could later become an entirely different bill if it is subjected to gut-and-go. Gut-and-go is a political tool in which the contents of a bill that has been approved by one chamber is gutted and replaced with entirely different legislation before being sent back to the originating chamber for an up or down vote.

Wagle said she wants legislators to vote on the content of a bill, not on the person sponsoring it. “I don’t want a name attached to it because there are people here who see a name on the bill and they vote against it if they have a personal vendetta that they want to carry out.”

Such arguments reek of political cowardice. Why would a legislator author, sponsor or bring forward a bill they are not willing to put their name on?

Lawmakers are the most public of public servants and should be held accountable for their actions. If voters are to make informed decisions, they need to know what bills their legislators are writing, supporting and opposing.

Clayton’s bill is a no-brainer, and it should be supported and approved.