Legislative issues sidelined by shortened session

Posted March 26, 2020

By Doug Anstaett, KPA lobbyist

There’s good news and bad news from the 2020 session of the Kansas Legislature.

The bad news: nothing much got done.

The good news: nothing much got done.

That may sound crazy, but in the scheme of things in Topeka, sometimes no news is good news.

To allay any concerns, it appears no general public notice to the internet bill will come of this two-year session.

The one bill addressing that possibility, HB 2237, sat in the House Local Government for two years, thanks to committee chair Rep. Kent Thompson, R-Iola.

We were able to block, at least for now, an attempt to allow an alternative way of advertising self-storage locker lien sales.

House Bill 2454, brought on behalf of the industry, made it out of the Kansas House but got caught up in the abrupt end of the session last week.

We slowed it down on the Senate side of the aisle, but it could rear its head once more next month during the annual sausage-making process we call the wrap-up session.

We’ll see.

Two bills brought by the Kansas Secretary of State began as threats to the newspaper industry but ended with compromises favorable to us.

The first, SB 254, would have changed the way constitutional amendments are advertised in Kansas. Now, one newspaper in each county gets the three-time publication of the amendment just before it goes to the voters. The original language would have allowed the secretary of state to choose larger newspapers and eliminate some smaller ones if those counties had subscribers to the big-city newspaper.

We kept the language at one newspaper per county and supported the secretary’s language to have that expense paid for by the State General Fund rather than out of the secretary’s budget. That compromise kept us both happy.

The other bill, HB 454, would have added two new exceptions to the Kansas Open Records Act for election security and cybersecurity.

Our compromise simply added those two topics to an existing exception that deals with security.

Our bill to control costs of records requests,  Senate Bill 435, will die at the end of this session, but we will be reintroducing it early in the 2021 session.

We decided to back off when were told by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt in mid-March about guidelines he is writing in response to the egregious charges requested by the city of Frontenac for access to records of a purging of the city staff that led to the resignation of the mayor.

Schmidt’s office cited the Frontenac City Council after an investigation, calling the charges “unreasonable” and sanctioning the city for that and other shortcomings in its handling of public records requests.

While we will work with the attorney general, we will also seek that his “guidelines” become Kansas law.

Even Schmidt admits guidelines are just that and aren’t necessarily enforceable.

We want this language to be in statute, and thus the law in Kansas.