Remarks delivered to a meeting of the South-central Kansas legislative delegation, January 5, 2010.
I’d like to see to Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) strengthened in some way.
Recently I asked three quasi-governmental organizations in Wichita for some records. They declined, stating that they are not subject to the records act. They believe that because their form of organization is non-profit — several different forms of 501c status — they do not have to follow the KORA.
These organizations receive all or nearly all of their funds from taxes. The open records act defines a public agency as, in part, “any other entity receiving or expending and supported in whole or in part by the public funds appropriated by the state or by public funds of any political or taxing subdivision of the state.”
These organizations may be relying on faulty advice by the Wichita city attorney, who says that at least one of these organizations falls under the vendor exception to the KORA. That exception is there so that if, say, a car dealer sells a car to a city, the dealer isn’t subject to the KORA for that reason alone.
But these organizations, generally, have only one client: government. They are performing a governmental function that some cities keep in-house instead of outsourcing as Wichita has. So this vendor exception should not apply in these cases.
The Kansas Open Records Act contains language stating that the act should be construed liberally. Governments should be looking for ways to make more information available, not going out of the way to restrict access, as does the City of Wichita.
I don’t know what would be the cure for this situation. I’ve asked the district attorney to look into these cases.
Furthermore, I would like to call your attention to the Sedgwick County legislative platform, especially the provisions regarding the limitation of the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes and the requirement for sales and property tax increases to be put to a vote of the people. As you may be aware, Sedgwick County did not budget funds for a lobbyist this year, so we’re going to be counting on Sedgwick County legislators to press these initiatives.
Finally, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has compelling research showing that school choice programs save money. At a time we’re struggling to fund schools, we should look at school choice programs as a way to save money.