Editorials

Don’t close caucuses

To be sure, Kansas legislators have found ways to hold secret meetings and otherwise hide their votes and other actions from public view. Still, it was shameful of the GOP-led Kansas House to vote overwhelmingly to formally bar media from House Republican and Democratic caucus meetings during the legislative session.

Because 92 of the House’s 125 members are Republicans, a closed GOP caucus would mean nearly three-quarters of the House was meeting in private.

Why should such official secrecy be necessary in a chamber of the people?

Closed caucuses are common in some other states. And “state law allows this,” said state Rep. Clark Shultz, R-Lindsborg.

So what?

If public officials think transparency limits their ability to do their job, they misunderstand their job. If transparency impedes them from saying or doing something, the problem is with what they want to say or do, not with the transparency.

The only consolations: Similar rules in the Senate are rarely exercised. House Democrats say they won’t use the rule at all. And House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, predicts that in practice, closed caucuses will be a “very, very, very rare thing.”

They’d better be.

It’s hard enough for many Kansans to follow the work of their Legislature closely. House Republicans have no business taking formal steps to make it harder.

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