Gov. Jeff Colyer on Thursday signed into law a multitude of policy changes that improve access to government records, calling the bills a good start in his quest to make Kansas more transparent.
The bills deal with records relating to children who die in the state foster care system, police body camera video and fees for late campaign finance filing. Colyer also signed an executive order in support of legislation clarifying which crimes may disqualify somebody from receiving a certificate or license.
Transparency, Colyer said, “will continue to be a watch word for me.”
The ceremony at the Statehouse came a day after The Topeka Capital-Journal revealed the Kansas Department of Revenue is outsourcing some technology services as part of a $50 million deal that will result in laying off 56 agency employees after they train their replacements. KDOR on Wednesday refused to confirm terms of the contract.
Colyer said the agency followed regulations and that he has asked KDOR secretary Sam Williams to answer any questions about the deal. Rachel Whitten, the agency’s spokeswoman, provided a copy of the contract following Colyer’s remarks and said Williams could answer questions Friday morning.
Among those packed into Colyer’s office Thursday were supporters of transparency-related bills passed by the Legislature in the final days of the session.
The legislation brings significant changes to information that can be accessed through an open records request from the Kansas Department for Children and Families following a child fatality. The agency must provide a summary of reports and recommendations made for the child.
Colyer said the law coincides with his directive to DCF secretary Gina Meier-Hummel to turn the agency upside down. Meier-Hummel said the law will help assure the public her agency takes the issue of child protection seriously.
“I absolutely believe the signing of this bill today will be monumental in terms of being able to tell the public more about what we do as an agency,” Meier-Hummel said. “I think there are a lot of myths out there, and this will allow for us to tell what we have and haven’t done.”
Kent Cornish, president of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, spoke in support of legislation expanding access to police recordings. The bill allows spouses and parents of those killed by law enforcement to access recordings within 20 days. More work needs to be done to consider when those recordings can be made public, Cornish said, but he credited lawmakers for bringing parties together.
Another component bans agencies from disclosing social security numbers in open records. If accidentally disclosed, the agency is to notify those affected and provide a year of credit monitoring.
For those seeking certificates and licenses, new legislation aims to level the playing field by making the qualifications clear. Colyer said his order requires licensing agencies to make the information prominent on their websites.
Another bill allows political candidates to drop the names of their treasurer from Twitter accounts while strengthening the penalties for failing to file their finance reports on time. Candidates are supposed to reveal contributions eight days before an election.
Rep. Keith Esau, an Olathe Republican who is running for secretary of state, said the new law increases fines to $100 for the first 48 hours, then $50 per day. He also touted a section of the bill that requires precinct election results to be posted online.