By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Officials fear losing voice
Legislation would curtail lobbying by public entities
new deh howard partington mug
Howard Partington

Below is the complete text of SB 109:
Section 1. (a) No public funds may be used directly or indirectly for lobbying. No public funds may be used to pay membership dues to an association that is engaged in lobbying the state. Public funds shall not be used for the purpose of employing or contracting for the service of any person whose duty and responsibility includes lobbying. Nothing in this section shall prevent officers or employees of the state or a municipality or an association representing certain municipalities from communicating with a member of the legislature on the request of that member or communicating to the legislature, through the proper official channels, requests for legislative action or appropriations which are deemed necessary for the efficient conduct of the public business or actually made in the proper performance of their official duties. (b) Public funds shall not be expended as a direct or indirect gift or campaign contribution to any elected official, officer or employee of the state or any municipality. (c) Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a class C misdemeanor. (d) For the purposes of this section: (1) “Gift” means a voluntary transfer of any thing of value without consideration of equal or greater value, but does not include informational material transferred for the sole purpose of informing the recipient about matters pertaining to official state agency business; (2) “lobbying” shall have the meaning ascribed to it in K.S.A. 46-225, and amendments thereto; (3) “municipality” shall have the meaning ascribed to it in K.S.A. 75- 6102, and amendments thereto; and (4) “state” shall have the meaning ascribed to it in K.S.A. 75-6102, and amendments thereto. Sec. 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its publication in the statute book.

 State Statute 46-225 defines lobbying: (a) “Lobbying” means: (1) Promoting or opposing in any manner action or nonaction by the legislature on any legislative matter or the adoption or nonadoption of any rule and regulation by any state agency; or (2)  entertaining any state officer or employee or giving any gift, honorarium or payment to a state officer or employee in an aggregate value of $40 or more within any calendar year, if at any time during such year the person supplying the entertainment, gifts, honoraria or payments has a financial interest in any contract with, or action, proceeding or other matter before the state agency in which such state officer or employee serves, or if such person is the representative of a person having such a financial interest.

Great Bend City Administrator Howard Partington stood before the Kansas Senate’s Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee Monday morning. He told the members his very appearance in Topeka could be construed as a violation of the bill he came to testify against.
Partington joined a host of city, county and school district officials from across the state in that hearing chamber to speak against the proposed anti-public entity lobbying Senate Bill 109. “That room was packed,” he said.
In a nutshell, SB 109 would prohibit public funds from being used to pay for lobbying services or for membership dues to an association that is engaged in lobbying. But, it would not prohibit officers or employees of the state, a municipality, or an association from communicating with the Legislature.
In addition, public funds could not be used for a direct or indirect gift or campaign contribution to any elected official, officer or employee of the state or a municipality. Any individual violating provisions of the bill would be guilty of a class C misdemeanor.
“It’s very broad and very vague,” Partington said of the legislation. “Under the bill, just by being there (at the hearing) would have made me a criminal.”
He said there were only about four that spoke for the bill and about 13 who spoke against it. There was also a table piled with written testimony opposing the bill.
“They did hear what we had to say,” Partington said. He was also asked to submit a written statement.
Cities, counties and school districts rely on such organizations as the Kansas League of Municipalities, Kansas Association of Counties and Kansas State Association of Boards to speak on their behalf.  “We would be losing a voice,” Partington said.
There a number of initiatives cities like Great Bend would like to have a say in, he said. Among them are transportation and economic development projects.
There are exceptions. A legislator can contact an officials and request their appearance or a governing body can direct a representative to testify, but even these are iffy.
The bill was introduced Friday, Feb. 1, by the  by Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs, which is also the bill’s primary sponsor. The first hearing in the Senate took place Monday at the Statehouse with the Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee, during which Partington and the others plead their case.
The hearing was scheduled late Friday afternoon. Partington was tipped off over the weekend and hastily planned his trip.
Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, who’s 35th District includes all of Ellsworth County and part of Rice County, is the Committee on Federal and State Affairs’ vice-chairman. Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, who’s 33rd District takes in all of Barton, Pawnee, Stafford and Rush counties, serves on it as well.
Neither were available Thursday for comment on the bill.
Chairman Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, was also unavailable.
As for the bill’s impetus, Partington said he did not know. “That question was asked. Nobody seemed to want to take credit for it.”
According to state Budget Director Steven J. Anderson, enactment of the bill could affect state agencies and municipalities that use public funds for lobbying efforts. However, the number of state agencies or municipalities affected is not known.
In addition, the bill could increase the number of cases in the local judicial system, as it creates a new class C misdemeanor, Anderson said. The number of additional cases cannot be estimated.
Partington said the committee adjourned without taking any action on the bill. Its fate from here is unknown.
The committee may “work the bill” and try to get it before the whole Senate, he said. Or, it may just fade away.