AP: Kansas moves to enact law on lobbying on gun issues

5/21/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas legislators are close to approving restrictions favored by the National Rifle Association on the use of state tax dollars to promote or oppose gun-control measures or to lobby local, state or federal officials on the issue.

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas legislators are close to approving restrictions favored by the National Rifle Association on the use of state tax dollars to promote or oppose gun-control measures or to lobby local, state or federal officials on the issue.

The Senate approved the measure Friday on a 31-6 vote. The House could consider it as early as Monday, and its approval would send the measure to Gov. Sam Brownback. The Republican governor is a strong gun-rights supporter but hasn't said publicly whether he'd sign the measure.

Lawmakers initially considered a proposal that would have prohibited officials from using state tax dollars to lobby, produce advertising or other materials to promote policies at the local, state and federal level dealing with "any legal product." But a committee of the Republican-dominated Senate quickly narrowed the measure to gun control issues, and the final version emerged from negotiations with the GOP-controlled House.

The NRA lobbied for the measure, and the Senate's vote came only three weeks after a new state law took effect, declaring that the federal government now has power to regulate firearms, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. Legislators have worked on gun-rights proposals as President Barack Obama and other federal officials have discussed new gun-control measures in the wake of December's mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King, an Independence Republican, said the protection of gun ownership in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is viewed by most Kansans as "one of the fundamental cores of our system of government."

And NRA lobbyist Brent Gardner said: "There's absolutely no doubt that the people in Kansas have attempted to send a message, loud and clear, to the feds and everyone else, where they stand on the Second Amendment."

The bill would prevent local governments from using dollars from the state to hire Statehouse lobbyists to influence legislators on gun-control issues. Neither the state nor local governments could hire lobbyists on gun-control issues.

The measure also says that no state funds can be used for "publicly or propaganda purposes" or preparing or distributing "any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, electronic communication, radio, television or video presentation" on gun control issues.

The bill makes an exception for "normal and recognized executive and legislative relationships" so that, supporters said, officials themselves can confer.

During the Senate's debate, Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, suggested the measure was too vague. For example, he noted, the bill contains no definition for what constitutes a gun control issue.

"I'm a gun owner," Holland said during the chamber's debate. "I like guns, but I really wonder where we're going or taking our Legislature when we go down this path of very vague bills."

Critics also suggested that the bill would infringe on the free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"We are denying our local, elected officials the opportunity to voice their opinion and represent their constituents," said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican.

But Sen. Greg Smith, an Overland Park Republican who argued for the bill during the Senate's debate, said nothing will prohibits local officials from raising issues with legislators or federal officials — so long as they don't use state dollars. Local officials still could use local or private dollars to hire lobbyists.

"If it's not state-appropriated money, then they're within their rights to do whatever they want to do," Smith said.

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