A year after creating the Office of the Repealer, Gov. Sam Brownback proposed Friday that legislators eliminate 51 laws and regulations he considers to be burdensome, unreasonable or duplicative.
The Republican governor’s list includes the proposed repeal of a 1903 law that requires the immediate removal of a sheriff following the lynching of a person in his custody. The law prohibits that sheriff from being reinstated in office, unless the sheriff successfully petitions the governor showing that he took reasonable measures to prevent the lynching.
Other laws targeted would eliminate seldom-used funds in the state treasury, such as the testing samples and seed exam fund, the pest control operators fund and fertilizer and pesticide compliance administration fund. It also removes provisions for counties to appoint “a competent woman” to be matron of the jail.
Brownback said it was unclear if any of the suggestions would result in job losses or savings in state or local revenues, though removal should clean the books of statutes that have lost their purpose.
“I don’t think there is a barn burner on the list,” Brownback said. “State laws and regulations shouldn’t hinder opportunities for Kansans and Kansas businesses and opportunities in the state.”
He signed an executive order in January 2011 to give Department of Administration Secretary Dennis Taylor the task of identifying rules, regulations and laws that were considered impediments to improving the economy or reducing state government.
The list didn’t include the state’s anti-sodomy law, which has not been enforced since a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down state statutes that criminalize gay sex between consenting adults.
The Kansas Equality Coalition had urged the Brownback administration – which draws strong support from conservative Christian evangelicals – to repeal the law, arguing it’s a prime example of unnecessary and outdated regulations.
“We are angry and disappointed that Governor Brownback has failed to keep his promise to repeal laws that are unreasonable,” said Tom Witt, executive director of the coalition.
Taylor wouldn’t comment about why the law wasn’t included but said nothing was being ruled out for repeal at this point.
“I think what we want to bring forward are those we are confident or at least feel need to be repealed at this particular moment,” Taylor said. “But it doesn’t mean that others in the future won’t be the subject of a secondary, third or tertiary submission, as well.”
Taylor said some of the items on the list were laws that were in conflict with other statutes and their removal would remove any uncertainty as to who had jurisdiction over duties. He called the list a “first step” toward more action on the more than 500 suggestions received either from meetings across the state or emailed to the office over the past year.
“We obviously are continuing to be in research and be in dialogue with agencies and other organizations about other suggestions that we received,” he said.
Taylor said the process involves taking the suggested item for repeal and visiting with the appropriate agency to determine if it can be removed. Those items announced Friday will each be submitted in separate bill form for legislators to consider.
One item regarded the subpoena powers of the Department of Labor to investigate workplace accidents. Taylor said the law was unnecessary because federal authority to investigate accidents like the fatal October grain elevator explosion in Atchison superseded state jurisdiction.