Shawnee lawmaker among first to sign open government pledge
TOPEKA — A coalition of open government advocates launched a campaign Wednesday by asking state lawmakers to take a pledge of support for more transparency, greater access to public records and increased public participation.
The campaign, called "Open Kansas," is not calling for passage of any particular bill. Instead, organizers said they simply want the issue of openness and transparency to be at the forefront of lawmakers' minds throughout the session, on a wide range of issues.
"This initiative was developed to raise up the issue of government transparency — something important to all of us no matter who we are or what we do," said Benet Magnusen, executive director of the nonprofit group Kansas Appleseed, a Lawrence-based justice center that provides legal advocacy for the poor.
Reps. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, and John Wilson, D-Lawrence, were the first lawmakers to sign the pledge during a kickoff rally for the campaign at the Statehouse.
Rubin has been a staunch opponent of practices that have become common in the House, such as bundling multiple bills into a single conference committee bill that members have to approve or reject as a package; and of allowing unrecorded "division" votes on amendments and on motions to advance bills to final action.
Rubin said he intends to push for more legislation this year, including providing live audio streams of committee hearings.
Organizations involved in the Open Kansas initiative include Kansas Appleseed, El Centro, Communities Creating Opportunity, Kansas Action for Children, and Kansas Association of Community Action Programs.