July 29, 2014

The Gardner News offers its legislative agenda

Many entities, especially public or taxpayer funded entities, offer legislative agendas to elected officials. The agendas put forth items of concern and areas in which legislators may expect a visit from a lobbyist on their behalf.
The Gardner News doesn’t have a bucketful of money to hire a lobbyist, as do many public entities including the Johnson County Board of Commissioners and Johnson County Community College. However, we offer this legislative agenda as a voice of the people and free enterprise. These are the issues we’d like the Kansas Legislature to consider in 2014.
1) Audio taping of executive sessions.  Information would be held for one year, and only opened if a complaint is made, and only in front of a judge to determine validity of complaint.
Currently, executive sessions are not subject to taping. If there is a concern that Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) was violated, the matter becomes an issue of he-said, she-said. The law should be changed protect elected officials and the public from frivolous claims.
2) Tighten attorney-client exemptions for closed-door sessions.  For example, council meets with city’s financial advisor using the KOMA attorney-client privilege exemption. This exemption has been stretched to the limit. The public has the right to know what officials are doing.
3) Campaign finance reports for cities of less than first class should be due within five days of an election, and preliminary reports should be due prior to an election. Currently, they are not due until Dec. 31, many months after elections. The date reports are submitted and laws governing campaign finance needs to be strengthened. For example; election officials say some candidates have reported money “found” on their doorstep. Those submitting reports, or in any way responsible for campaign finances, need to have name and location verified with a photo identification card.
Enforcement of campaign finance laws and penalties should also be addressed by the legislature. Currently, the penalty for violating campaign finance laws for a candidate of political action committee in a less-than-first-class city is $100 following criminal prosecution. That’s not even a slap on the wrist.
4) Define fair and reasonable copy costs. As custodians of public records, the law allows fair and reasonable copy costs, but some entities charge $35 just to turn a computer on and print a report. ”Copy and overhead” costs are now being used to dissuade citizens for asking for public information.
5) Probable cause affidavits were sealed under a former attorney general. Kansas is one of the few states with these records closed. They should be an open record.
6) Any business receiving a tax incentive (TIF, IRBs, abatements, STAR bonds, etc.) should be audited for compliance each year and the results made public. Businesses not fulfilling obligations upon which the tax incentives were based should be billed for abated taxes, which would be immediately due and payable.
7) Strengthen public notice laws to improve transparency and accountability. Encourage e-government internet publication to provide the public 24-7 access to information, while maintaining safeguards to the integrity of information as currently required through the process of third-party verification.
8) All government records or reports that must be sent to the Kansas Department of Records should be verified copies. Currently, there is no process to verify such reports and no penalty for failure to submit the report.  Third party verification could be included with the report and would be revenue neutral. Government entities that do not submit required forms should be fined and their failure made public.
9) Stop the use of public monies for lobbying.
10) Quit passing stupid, feel-good, politically correct laws. Reduce government intrusion into taxpayers’ lives.
11) Balance the budget by reducing spending.

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