What I am writing about this subject because it concerns me greatly.
The government of Kansas makes it one of the darkest and most secretive states in the country. A couple of months ago, three Kansas City Star reporters did a very revealing story on secrecy and lack of transparency in the Kansas Statehouse.
Ninety percent of all bills passed by the Kansas Legislature in the past decade have come out of committee without a sponsor. What is wrong with this is the public cannot learn why that bill came up or who pushed for it. Also, it is possible for bills to come out of committee on an unrecorded voice vote; therefore it is not possible to learn what committee members voted for or against the bill.
Twenty-seven years ago, a technique which has become known as “gut and go” was first used in the Kansas Legislature and has been used repeatedly since then. By this technique, a bill which has come to the floor can have things added to it and passed into law which may be totally different than the subject of the original bill.
Usually, the addition deals with a separate bill which has failed or has been languishing in committee. Kansas is one of only a handful of states which allows the “gut and go” procedure.
In addition to the big need for transparency in the state legislative process, there is a need for transparency in our city and county government, in our school boards and in our courtrooms. It shouldn’t be difficult for the public and for media that reports to the public to learn what goes on in city, county and state government. It is our right to know.
What can we citizens do about this? Is there anything? I believe there is and that it is important for all of us to step up.
We need to go to our state legislators by e-mail, letter or face-to-face (Senator Carolyn McGinn, Rep. Don Schroeder, Rep. Tim Hodge, and to any other state legislator in the state with whom we may have a contact) and ask that secrecy and lack of transparency in the legislative process be done away with and that the process be opened up.
We also need to let our city and county commissioners and school board members know that transparency and public input is important to us.
If you are interested in the Kansas City Star series of stories about secrecy and lack of transparency in Kansas, Google “Kansas City Star stories on secrecy in Kansas.”
On a lighter note, I will end with telling you about a discovery I made last week. If you Google “YouTube Hands Off! A night at the Opera,” I guarantee laughs. Then try “Victor Borge Dance of the Comedians.” There are also many other Victor Borge videos on YouTube that will make you fall off your piano seat.
Sue Ice is a community activist, a former school board member, and a 23-year employee of Prairie View, Inc.