Amid a statewide conversation on government transparency and accountability, House Minority Leader Jim Ward urged fellow representatives Monday to support a bill that would prohibit an elected or appointed official from lobbying the state for one year after leaving office.
Members of the House Elections Committee heard testimony on house bill 2155, one of several bills Democrats presented earlier this month to increase transparency in Kansas politics.
The bill would prevent officials, including the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, commissioner of insurance, legislators and high-ranking staff or appointed officials from working as paid lobbyists for a year after leaving office, creating a “cooling off period.” Supporters argued it would keep government officials from profiting off their position when they leave office..
Ward, a Wichita Democrat and candidate for his party’s gubernatorial nomination, brought the bill.
“These are folks who have built up years of inside networking, and I’m not preventing them from using those skills. I’m just saying let it lay over,” Ward said. “Cool off those relationships so there is no perceived or actual influence on legislators.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 41 states have some sort of regulation on lobbying after state service. Of those states, 26 ban lobbying for a year.
Rep. Vic Miller, a Topeka Democrat, said there is a problem in Kansas with officials using the position for personal gain.
“I don’t think we should have people coming to this building or going to work for the administration with the idea that they’re going to cash in on that position in a later life,” Miller 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.
Committee chairman Rep. Keith Esau, an Olathe Republican, questioned whether the bill was asking legislators to give up too much.
“We give a lot to be in the Legislature. We aren’t paid a lot to be in the Legislature, and it does hurt our jobs back home and some people have to give up a job back home, while you’re having them give up a job for another year possibly after they leave the Legislature,” Esau said. “I understand preventing conflicts of interest while we’re in the Legislature but once we leave we’re citizens again.”
A date has not yet been set to revisit the bill.