Butler County Times Gazette
  • Kent Bush: Forty-nine states can - why can't Kansas?

  • House Bill 2555 was gutted by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week
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  • We just finished the annual observance of Sunshine Week but the Kansas legislature is more than happy living in the shadows.
    House Bill 2555 was gutted by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Instead of bringing the state in line with the other 49 states in the union, a few committee members stripped language from the bill that would have made affidavits in support of arrest and search warrants public documents after the warrants are served.
    Kansas is the only state in the nation to keep these documents hidden without a court order. That forces people who have search warrants served at their home or business to spend months in court and spend thousands of dollars to find out why their property was entered against their will.
    The other 49 states – and even Lyons and Chase counties in Kansas, who have opened the records via local court rule – all have no problems allowing the defendants, media and anyone else to see what evidence existed to produce such a warrant.
    What do Kansas legislators have to fear in this bill?
    The language contained plenty of protection for undercover officers, informants, investigative methods, sexual assault victims and other items that everyone agrees should be protected.
    The vast majority of officers do their job correctly and would never cut corners or bend rules to get the bad guys under any circumstances. Because of that, they would have no problem with the records being opened after the suspect was arrested or search conducted.
    But someone wants to keep the records closed and they convinced the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee to gut the bill. The Judiciary Committee is composed of Chair Sen. Jeff King, Vice Chair Sen. Greg Smith, Ranking Minority Member Sen. David Haley, an MembersSen. Terry Bruce, Sen. Forrest Knox, Sen. Garrett Love, Sen. Julia Lynn, Sen. Carolyn McGinn, Sen. Mike Petersen, Sen. Pat Pettey, and Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook.
    Forrest Knox can be reached at 785-296-7678 or Forrest.Knox@senate.ks.gov. He is one of Butler County’s senators and loves to hear from constituents about issues.
    Our other senator is Ty Masterson. Masterson can be reached at 785-296-7388 or Ty.Masterson@senate.ks.gov.
    Call or email your state senator and tell them to do anything possible to get the language back in this bill to open these documents at the appropriate time.
    Open government is better government.
    Ability to hide public records is not the place for Kansas to stand alone.

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