Those who closely follow legislation as it moves through the corridors of the Kansas Statehouse long have lamented how many bills appear to be written by special interest groups.
Most of that attention is focused on boilerplate language emanating from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC-crafted bills, generally copied and pasted and sometimes relevant to Kansas realities, have a way of appearing in state statutes at the end of each legislative session.
While the conservative ALEC is the most prolific submitter of potential new laws, it is by no means the only one. There are scores of groups, causes, industries, businesses and individuals with agendas to push. And every one of them has the capacity to craft bills in such a way that all the legislator need do is introduce it.
No writing required; no research needed. In fact, lawmakers donít even need to put their name on the handiwork.
A Topeka Capital-Journal report this week details how often anonymous legislation gets introduced. The number might surprise you; it should alarm you. Of the almost 750 bills put in the pipeline last session, 92 percent of them had no individualís name indicating authorship or even who introduced them. As roughly one in seven of the bills became law, the vast majority of new state statutes were written by special interest groups.
The Capital-Journal researched the history of anonymous bills and found the trend is moving sharply upward. During the 1920s, 80 percent of legislation was introduced with lawmakersí names on them. In the í70s, about half did. In 2005, 75 percent of bills were submitted by a committee.
Today it is rare that individual lawmakers attach their name to anything other than bills designed to pander to the conservative Christian sector. No fewer than 45 legislators jumped on board a move to establish a prayer room in the Capitol. A resolution honoring clergy drew 124 names. For serious issues affecting the people of Kansas, however, almost every bill lacks a signatory.
We believe there is a strong correlation between the trend toward anonymity and the transition from statesmen and women to mere politician. We also suspect matters of principle (other than the aforementioned affection for defending so-called Judeo-Christian values) have been eschewed for matters of political expediency. Itís not hard to see why when state lawmakers can get elected on platforms of repealing Obamacare ó when there is absolutely nothing a state senator or representative can do about it.
The politicians know that, but count on the fact voters do not. Until we resolve to better educate ourselves, we can expect special interest groups to keep grinding the sausage in Topeka and elected leaders to keep eating it. Everyday Kansans who wonít demand their rightful place at the table will continue to be fed scraps.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry