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State House Rejects Proposal To Expand Kansas Open Records Act

Stephen Koranda
KPR/File photo


On Monday, the state House rejected a proposal to expand the Kansas Open Records Act so that it would cover private emails about government business.

The House voted 86-30 against the proposal from Wichita Representative Jim Ward.

The measure was inspired by a disclosure that state Budget Director Shawn Sullivan used a private email account to give two well-connected lobbyists a preview of Governor Brownback's proposals weeks before they were formally unveiled to lawmakers.

The proposal amended a bill that preserves an existing list of exceptions in the records law that allow government agencies to deny the public access to documents.

The House gave first-round approval to the unchanged bill and will take a final vote today. If Ward's proposal were to become law, government agencies could be required to disclose officials' private emails about public business.

Ward said during the House's debate, "It is fundamental to a democracy that people know how decisions are made."

All of the votes against the measure came from Republicans. Some criticized Ward for not presenting his proposal to a committee for a thorough vetting.

Olathe Representative Scott Schwab worried that many kinds of private emails could be subject to disclosure under the open records law if Ward's proposal were enacted.

Brownback's office declined to comment on the matter.

Senate Democrats are working on their own, similar proposal.