Kansas legislator proposes measure ending anonymous bills

January 11, 2018 - 1:50 pm

A Kansas lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would end the Legislature's practice of bills being proposed that do not publicly name the sponsor, but some lawmakers say it is unlikely to pass.

Lawmakers can keep their names off bills by introducing them through committees. During last year's session, 94 percent of bills passed had no named sponsor, The Kansas City Star reported.

A proposal from Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican from Overland Park, would require bills introduced by a committee to include the name of the person who asked for it. The name would follow the bill through the legislative process.

The Star reported earlier that more than 90 percent of the laws passed in the last decade stemmed from bills whose authors were anonymous, which means the public doesn't know who sponsored a bill or that person's motivation.

Most states require that every bill contain the name of the lawmaker sponsoring it. Anonymous bills have been part of the Kansas legislative process for years, but some lawmakers have said they are used way too often.

"I want to make it so if you look up a bill online, you'll know who the requester is, and who asked for it," Clayton said.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat running for governor, said the House Democratic caucus is planning several bills designed to improve transparency in the Legislature.

But some lawmakers have defended the use of anonymous bills, saying bills proposed by an entire committee carry more weight because it indicates wider approval. Many lawmakers also argue that because their bills sometimes get amended or even replaced through a process known as "gut-and-go," they may not want their names associated with the final product. Gut-and-go allows lawmakers to strip the language in a bill that's usually already passed one chamber and replace it with a totally unrelated measure, then advance it with little or no debate.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, told The Star's editorial board last week that there would be "unintended consequences" if members started putting their names on bills that end up going through the gut-and-go process. Senate President Susan Wagle has said anonymity gives the legislation a better chance of passing.

"If I want a bill passed, I always want it to be a committee bill," said Wagle, a Wichita Republican. "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 out."

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