Prairie Politics

State pays registration fees for 13 legislators at ALEC conference

Lawmakers have the option of having the state pay attendance fees for ALEC and other conferences.
Lawmakers have the option of having the state pay attendance fees for ALEC and other conferences. File photo

Thirteen Kansas lawmakers asked the state to pay their registration fees for a conference in Arizona this week.

Taxpayers will pay $5,600 for the combined registration fees for 13 Republican lawmakers to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council’s States and Nation Policy Summit, according to records from Legislative Administrative Services. The conference ran Wednesday through Friday.

ALEC helps promote free-market-oriented legislation to policymakers around the country.

Three of the lawmakers are from Wichita: Steve Brunk, Dan Hawkins and Joseph Scapa. The state paid $400 each for Hawkins and Scapa to attend. Brunk’s registration cost $500 because it came after the early registration deadline.

The other lawmakers are Sen. Julia Lynn and Rep. Erin Davis from Olathe, Reps. Charles Macheers and John Rubin from Shawnee, House Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast from Emporia, Rep. Kevin Jones from Wellsville, Rep. Sharon Schwartz from Washington, Rep. Tony Barton from Leavenworth, Rep. Kyle Hoffman from Coldwater and Sen. Tom Arpke from Salina.

Lawmakers have the option of having the state pay attendance fees for ALEC and other conferences. House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, and Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, are attending the conference but did not have the state pay registration fees. There may be others who are doing that as well.

“ALEC meetings give legislators the chance to discuss and construct policy ideas associated with free markets and limited government. It’s an important professional development tool for legislators of all backgrounds and parties,” Merrick said in an e-mail Thursday evening.

Sloan will deliver a speech on energy technologies and policy-making, according to the speaker’s office.

After the conference, some lawmakers may be eligible to claim travel expenses if they hold official positions with ALEC. The total cost to the state from ALEC’s July conference was $11,963.

Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, has unsuccessfully pushed for legislation that would make it so lawmakers could no longer charge taxpayers for the cost of attending conferences. He says lawmakers need to set an example as the state is looking for savings.

Other conferences are also costing the state money this month. Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, are attending the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ annual conference in Los Angeles for $275 each.

The state also will pay $425 each for Sloan, Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, and Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit, to attend the Council of State Governments’ National Conference in Nashville on Dec. 10 and $400 each for Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, and Rep. James Todd, R-Overland Park, to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Capitol forum in Washington on Dec. 8.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3