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Transparency in Legislature bill unlikely to see House floor in 2014 session

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Thursday, May 1, 2014, at 10:31 a.m.

A bill intended to increase transparency in the Legislature is unlikely to make it to the House floor this session.

SB 413, known as the Transparency and Accountability Act, passed the Senate with unanimous support in the final week of the regular session earlier this month. It would set up live stream video and audio of legislative committee hearings, so that taxpayers could observe the decision making process.

Its supporters hoped to see it go to the House floor for a vote during the wrap-up session, but the bill faces two hurdles: There’s not enough time and there’s not enough money, according to House leaders.

“It has run out of time,” said Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, on Wednesday morning. He chairs the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, which would have to approve the bill before it could go to the floor for a vote.

He said that he had been told by House leadership that the plan was to conclude the wrap-up session in three days, which would not leave time for a hearing on the bill.

The bill hit another roadblock when the Department of Revenue announced that tax receipts were about $93 million less than expected. This has helped stall several bills that would cost the state money.

The live-streaming program would cost nearly $180,000 to implement in 2015 and about $50,000 every year after.

"The bill is one I would have liked to address during the veto session, but now any proposals that cost extra money are probably going to have to wait,” House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said in an e-mail Thursday morning.

He said he would be interested in taking up the proposal in the future.

The news that the bill has stalled was disappointing for Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, who had been its main proponent.

“It is a disappointing development, but that’s the way the democratic process works. It’s very, very difficult to get legislation through,” Clayton said Wednesday.

She added in an e-mail Thursday that she was pleased by the bipartisan support the bill had received and hoped to continue to push for the policy next session.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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