Politics & Government

Kansas bill closing private e-mail loophole goes to governor

Gov. Sam Brownback will decide whether to sign a bill that will close a loophole in the Kansas Open Records Act.
Gov. Sam Brownback will decide whether to sign a bill that will close a loophole in the Kansas Open Records Act. File photo

Gov. Sam Brownback will have to decide whether to sign a bill that would make his staff’s private e-mails open records when they pertain to public business.

Both chambers of the Legislature unanimously passed SB 22, a bill that will close a loophole in the Kansas Open Records Act that allowed public officials to conduct public business by private e-mail accounts.

The bill will make future such records open if they pertain to an official’s duties, meaning that the public will be able to request their release. The policy will apply to state and local officials.

The issue gained attention last year when The Eagle reported that Brownback’s budget director had used a private e-mail address and computer to send a draft of the budget proposal to two lobbyists with ties to the governor several weeks before it was presented to lawmakers.

The controversy prompted lawmakers from both parties and Attorney General Derek Schmidt to work to close the loophole.

“We are a stronger community when our public work is made public,” said Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, the lawmaker who chaired a state panel last year that studied how other states handled the issue.

Baumgardner said the state’s open records act “wasn’t in keeping with the times and the technology” and needed to be updated.

“I’m very hopeful that the governor will get out his magic pen and sign that and we’ll move forward,” she said after the bill passed the Senate on Friday.

Lawmakers paired the open records reform with legislation that will define police body camera videos as criminal investigation records. That won’t make them open to the public as a whole as transparency advocates had hoped, but it will allow them to be viewed by anyone who is the subject of a recording.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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