Kansas must have more sunlight.
… Top to bottom, Kansas government may be one of the most secretive in the nation. The public should be deeply concerned.
• Children have suffered horrific abuse and have even died while state agencies obscure their roles in investigating these cases. That leaves child care advocates and relatives unable to judge how well children are protected.
• Documents and evidence related to police shootings are sometimes hidden. Police investigations are left open for decades, allowing authorities to bar citizens — and crime victims — from knowing the details of criminal inquiries.
• Officials bypass public email accounts to communicate privately, a practice that shields their policy decisions from open-records scrutiny.
• State departments “slow-walk” open records requests or withhold documents clearly in the public domain. Some ask citizens and reporters to explain a reason for seeking documents, an inquiry not required by state law.
• Open meetings are not always publicized. Minutes and votes are recorded haphazardly. …
• Even the branch of government that should be the most transparent — the Kansas Legislature — hides its work. The vast majority of bills are offered anonymously, leaving voters unable to attach names to policy.
Lawmakers don’t always record committee votes, a shocking and easily corrected omission. Non-controversial language is routinely stripped from pending bills and replaced with important policy measures — a process called “gut-and-go.”
Taken together, the evidence shows Kansans face enormous challenges in understanding decisions made in their names.
Often, it’s simply an effort to ward off scrutiny or criticism. …
But the systemic secrecy in Kansas reveals something far more dangerous: the government’s belief that the public is an adversary to be resisted.
This is deeply offensive and is at odds with democracy and the state’s Constitution. “All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority,” the Kansas Bill of Rights says.
… Some of this can be easily remedied. There’s no reason Kansas lawmakers should be allowed to offer bills anonymously. All votes, even in committee, should be recorded — and made available to citizens online.
Other changes will require a new culture in Kansas.
… The clouds have covered Kansas for too long. ... The sun should start shining in.
— The Kansas City Star