Editorial: Anonymity should be stricken from bill authorization

Citizens deserve accountability from Kansas lawmakers

Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, believes that bills introduced by a committee should include the name of the lawmaker proposing the legislation. Current legislation often lacks that transparency. (2015 file photo/The Associated Press)

There is little question that transparency among elected officials would be welcomed overwhelmingly by Kansas voters.

 

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican lawmaker from Overland Park, apparently feels that way, too.

She advocates that bills introduced by a committee include the name of the lawmaker proposing the legislation. The documentation potentially enables the public to recognize the legislator who originated a measure or even amended a proposal if the process were to incorporate full accountability.

Incredibly, a vast majority of Kansas laws recently passed were bills with anonymous authors.

This is yet another reason why public trust in politicians continues to decline.

Many states actually require that all bills identify the sponsoring author. Not so in Kansas. Apparently, shady maneuvering is accepted practice at the Statehouse.

In a story distributed last week by The Associated Press, Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, defended the anonymity provided a committee when it submits a bill.

“If I want a bill passed, I always want it to be a committee bill,’’ Wagle said. “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 it.’’

Take an additional step and read the bill. Then decide on the merits of its content rather than passing judgment based strictly on its author.

Performing tasks based on such petty responses fails to represent the interests of the people legislators are elected to serve. Good ideas that appeal to a broad spectrum of representatives can be generated from both sides of the aisle. Or, from within a certain faction of a political party.

No sense in being naïve, however. Political differences often create divisions that cannot be mended.

Another consideration too are revisions to legislation that adhere to a process labeled “gut-and-go,’’ which allows lawmakers to remove language from a bill that passed through one chamber. Often, an unrelated measure is then substituted into the bill, which is sometimes forwarded with no debate.

Again, where is the accountability in that process? The art of deception is allowed to flourish with no one’s name attached to the responding changes in a bill.

Lawmakers should accept the expectation that they be accountable for legislation they author, then be willing to explain their motives.

The people of Kansas deserve to know the identity of lawmakers who author specific legislation or even changes to legislation that is completely rewritten.

Many interests and considerations are weighed before a legislator authors a bill. Concealing intentions within blanket approval by a committee creates unknowns when rating the performance of legislators.

Those same politicians happen to appear on ballots. Voters do not go to the polls and elect a committee.

 

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