Sen. Kelly announces ethics, transparency reforms

For Immediate Release:
February 5, 2018

Today Senator Laura Kelly announced a series of proposals to improve transparency and restore the public’s confidence in Kansas government. These proposals – if adopted – would make Kansas more open and increase accountability of state government at every level.

“Government transparency impacts every issue we address in the capitol and every branch of state government,” said Kelly. “During the past seven years, the public’s trust in the Brownback/Colyer Administration has deteriorated to an impossible low. We need to commit now to an open government advocating for the best interests of our families.”

From her very first legislative session, Kelly has fought to improve transparency and increase accountability. In recent years, she has been a leading voice in opposition to the Brownback/Colyer Administration and their efforts to operate state government in the dark. From the crafting of the Brownback tax experiment to the privatization of KanCare and the Lansing prison to the Department of Children and Families, Kelly has stood up to the Brownback/Colyer Administration and demanded answers.

“Kansans deserve to know what is happening in our state agencies, not to mention be able to obtain documents or information about issues important to state business,” Kelly said. “At every step in my career, I have fought to shine a light on issues being addressed by the Legislature and hold the Brownback/Colyer Administration accountable to the people.”

Kelly is proposing the following:

Executive Branch Reforms:

In a Kelly Administration, Governor’s Cabinet members and staff of the Governor’s Office will be required to sign an ethical code of conduct that ensures the highest standards of integrity within the administration. This will include:

  • An agreement not to work as a registered lobbyist in Kansas for two years after employment in the Governor’s office ends, or when that governor’s term ends.
  • A ban on conflicts of interest and personal enrichment within the administration.
  • Regarding agencies and contracting, Kelly would require in-depth financial analysis of the ultimate taxpayer benefit from privatization.
  • In order to increase accountability in state facilities and the foster care system, Kelly proposes requiring an expedited, independent investigation of all deaths in state facilities (prisons or hospitals) or in the foster care system. Results of the investigation will be presented to the appropriate legislative committee and be open to public scrutiny.


Lobbyist Reform:

  • Require that every person who lobbies the executive branch be registered as a lobbyist. Currently, people must only be registered if they are lobbying the Legislature or agencies regarding rules and regulations. Bill requested by Sen. Anthony Hensley.
  • Kelly supports a 2-year prohibition on legislators becoming lobbyists once their term is over or when they resign their legislative seat. Bill introduced in 2017/2018 by Sen. Hensley.

Increase Transparency of Legislative Proceedings: Kelly supports efforts to make the legislative process more transparent to the public at every stage. For example, requiring the author of legislation be identified when the bill is introduced and expanding live streaming of legislative hearings. Bills have been introduced by Rep. Stephanie Clayton.

Kansas Open Records Cost Containment: Cost is a major obstacle preventing many Kansans from obtaining public records. In many cases, government entities will charge a significant amount of money simply to prevent the release of public documents. This should change to increase transparency and accountability of government entities. Government entities should charge a reasonable price for documents requested by the public or media (not companies) in which there is significant public interest or importance. As governor, Kelly will work with open government partners to draft legislation to address this problem.

“We must change the culture of closure in Topeka and that starts at the top with the governor,” Kelly said. “State government – from our prisons to our healthcare facilities to our foster care system – needs to be held accountable to the people. It’s time we make this a top priority and restore the public’s confidence in our state.”

Kelly also signed in 2016 and 2017 the Open Kansas Transparency Pledge and supported the Open Kansas policy proposals which included closing the loophole that allowed state leaders to use private email to conduct state business, established live streaming of committee hearings, prevented the use of legal action to stifle free speech and public participation, and more.


Clips for Background:

Sen. Laura Kelly: KDHE has ‘bad rep’ over access to information regarding KanCare

“A Democratic senator slammed the state agency running KanCare on Tuesday over difficulty in obtaining data about the program’s performance. ‘You guys have a really bad rep regarding data sharing. It’s gotten progressively more difficult, including legislators, to get information from your shop,’ Kelly said.”

Kansas child abuse deaths more than doubled in past 4 years

“However, state Sen. Laura Kelly said, DCF doesn’t always give the task force complete or accurate information. Kelly also said DCF does not have to give the task force files of children who have died and had a history with DCF. So, there’s no way to know if protocol was followed.
‘I’m concerned about the lack of transparency,’ Kelly said. ‘I’m concerned that there’s not objective review of incidents that occur.’”

Kansas child welfare official has no answer when state senator asks about ‘shredding of notes’

“They still have not answered my question,” said Kelly, a Topeka Democrat. “My question was very specifically, ‘Have social workers been asked to shred notes that they have taken during meetings on kids in custody?’ I don’t have the answer to that question from them yet.”

Criticism of Kansas prison plan reflects lawmakers’ distrust

“A state audit in July said bond financing for the new prison would be cheaper over time than a lease-purchase agreement. The department contends the audit’s conclusions were based on now-outdated cost estimates, but auditors said the department’s analysis at the time “used inconsistent assumptions” tending to favor a lease-purchase option. ‘I think the information that we have has been parceled out to us selectively,’ said state Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat.”

Secrecy at troubled Kansas state hospital: ‘They don’t want the truth out there’

“I can’t imagine that it is either legal, nor is it good policy. It is just no way for an employer to treat an employee to try and gag them.” Kelly said lawmakers “rely on people in the trenches to tell us what’s really going on because we’re suspect of the information provided to us by leadership.” She called any effort to restrict their conversations with lawmakers “a cover-up.”

As prison staff shortage worsens, Kansas lawmakers question corrections chief

“Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, said the agency had not been transparent enough with lawmakers about incidents of violence and unrest at El Dorado. She referred to recent media reports, including an Associated Press story from July that reported earlier uprisings at the Kansas prison, in her criticism of the agency. “It concerns me that we’re not getting the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to this,” Kelly said. “And what I’d like you to know is that we’re your partners. You need us. But we also need you to be straightforward with us and tell us what’s going on, because we’re the ones you’re going to have to turn to for help.”

Additional Brownback/Colyer Clips on Transparency:

Brownback’s KanCare Medicaid Overhaul Was Done Without Stakeholder Input Despite Promises To The Disabled Community.
“The administration also didn’t help itself by crafting the reform with little stakeholder input, and by failing to get its answers straight since the plan’s November rollout. If the administration used a ‘very robust process’ for getting input, as Mark Dugan, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, told the crowd Saturday, it somehow was invisible to the developmental disability community.” [Wichita Eagle, 1/17/12]

Brownback openly admitted that the state budget and a $777 million tax plan was crafted entirely behind closed doors. Neither he nor legislative leaders close to the negotiations were willing to discuss details in public, saying the private meetings are just part of the process. [Wichita Eagle, 5/13/13,]

Brownback met with education officials and some top Republican lawmakers behind closed doors to discuss school finance. The gathering comes as the Kansas Supreme Court considers a lawsuit over education spending and lawmakers prepare for the 2014 legislative session. [KCUR, 11/26/13,]

A Republican State Senator And His Wife Confirmed That Brownback Encouraged Violation Of KOMA By Talking Policy With Legislators At His Home.“Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, says he sat with the other Republicans on the Commerce and Assessment and Taxation committees at Gov. Sam Brownback’s Cedar Crest mansion Jan. 18 after dinner and heard several of them talk taxes with the governor. Kelsey, whose wife was present that night and corroborated his account, said he never joined in the conversation. ‘They were discussing his tax proposal,’ Kelsey said during an interview in his office.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 2/9/12]

The State’s KOMA Investigation Revealed That Brownback Views Transparency As An Option To Be Ignored When Convenient. “While the findings don’t reveal a widespread intent to violate the law, they do show that legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback view open government as an option, rather than a legal requirement.” [Hutchinson News, 8/21/12]

The Brownback Administration Initially Refused To Reveal The Guest List For A “Brainstorming Session” That Featured National Proponents Of Polygamy, Marriages Of Economic Convenience And The Elimination Of No-Fault Divorce. “[Wichita Eagle, 8/21/11]

Brownback created a secret task force to develop his tax plan in private. The task force’s meetings have been private, and the Brownback administration has declined to reveal the identity of some of its members. [Lawrence Journal World, 10/11/11,]