Politics & Government

Kansas House rejects proposal to eliminate anonymous bills

File photo

The Kansas House rejected a proposal to eliminate anonymous bills when it passed its rules Thursday.

Kansas is one of only a handful of states that allow lawmakers to introduce bills anonymously, which can make it difficult to track the source of controversial legislation.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, offered a proposed rule change that would prohibit lawmakers from introducing bills anonymously. It failed on a voice vote.

“That’s an easy transparency thing that really doesn’t hurt anybody,” Ward said.

The Topeka Capital-Journal found in 2015 that more than 90 percent of the bills introduced in the Legislature that year were anonymous, a higher rate of anonymous legislation than any other state in the nation.

Some lawmakers objected that Ward’s proposal would mean that lawmakers would have their names attached to bills they didn’t support after their initial bills were amended.

Rep. Les Osterman, R-Wichita, pointed to a common legislative technique known as a “gut and go,” in which lawmakers empty the contents of a bill that has passed one chamber and replace it with completely unrelated legislation. He said lawmakers would be blamed for bills they had no part in drafting if their names were attached to bills that had undergone this process.

A second proposal, which Ward brought after the first failed, would have addressed that concern.

That proposal, which passed by a voice vote, will allow lawmakers to take their names off of bills after a “gut and go.” Ward said that if he had changed the order in which he offered the proposed rule changes, the transparency-related measure might have had a better chance of passing.

The House sets new rules for itself every two years.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3