Peyton Kraus
KU Statehouse Wire Service
A bill introduced in the Elections Committee Jan 29 would prohibit state officers and employees from accepting lobbying positions less than a year after leaving their public state position, which would mirror federal law and that of 26 other states.
House Bill 2155 sponsor House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita) said he hopes the bill will create a cooling off period for public officials to differentiate their time in office from their time as a lobbyist.
“I’m not saying that those people can’t engage in lobbying activities,” Ward said. “I’m just saying you have to wait a year, so everybody’s brain has disconnected you from your former job and you can advocate based on the facts.”
Ward said he worries relationships current officials have with these now-lobbyists will sway their opinion. He wants to keep the focus on the values of the issue and not include such a strong influence from colleagues of public officials.
“Those are not good reasons to make policy, the facts and the merits of the idea (are),” Ward said.
Gov. Sam Brownback’s former chief of staff, David Kensinger, left his position in April of 2012 and returned to the lobbying firm he founded in 2004. He started that firm after leaving his position as Brownback’s chief of staff in the U.S. Senate in 2004. Under federal rules, he was prohibited from lobbying Brownback’s office. Kensinger declined to comment on the bill.
Troy Findley served as chief of staff under former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and became lieutenant governor to her successor, Mark Parkinson. Findley left office in early 2011 and was registered as a lobbyist in 2012. It was not immediately clear how quickly he entered lobbying. Findley did not immediately return a request for comment.
The bill would only restrict lobbying if the ex-officials are receiving monetary compensation for their advocacy, so anyone could still lobby on a volunteer basis. One conversation Ward deems necessary is the need for clarification on whether the bill would affect individuals who have already taken lobbying positions.
During the hearing, Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby) suggested two amendments to the bill: Change the cooling off period to two years, making it a full term; and making the restrictions apply only to officials who have held their positions for a certain length of time. He suggested a minimum of four years for the restriction to go into effect.
Ward said he is expecting opposition from Republicans. He referred to many ex-officials who have taken lobbying positions soon after their elected term ended, or they resigned and are a part of the majority party.
“I will be pleasantly surprised if we get a chance to vote on that bill,” Ward said a few hours before the hearing.
In addition to Carpenter’s suggestions, questions about the bill’s language were more frequent than strict opposition to it during the hearing. However, Rep. Brett Parker (D-Overland Park) asked why certain officials were not included in the bill, such as treasurer and attorney general.
Rep. Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) expressed her concerns about the fairness of restricting legislators to take a new position, since many individuals’ careers as elected or appointed officials are not long-lasting.
“We make a huge sacrifice when we come up here, both monetarily and in opportunity cost, and when we do that and you add this to it, will it make it more difficult to say yes to becoming a representative or taking any position because it could test your opportunity to advance your professional career later?” Williams asked.
As of right now, nothing has been scheduled for further work on HB2155.
Katie Bernard contributed to this story.
Peyton Kraus is a University of Kansas junior majoring in journalism from Minneapolis.