Butler County Times Gazette
  • Kent Bush: House and Senate get one right

  • Sometimes we take good things for granted
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  • After I had been an editor for about a year, I noticed that my controversial columns that point out something I don’t like drew the most attention.
    I also was growing very tired of finding the outrage of the day. So I began making a point of writing positive or funny columns as frequently as possible.
    It’s easy to point out what you don’t like. Sometimes we take good things for granted.
    If you don’t believe that, misspell one word in a 24-page newspaper and see what comments come your way.
    But there have been a lot of good things happening lately that I wanted to point out.
    The Kansas State Legislature has taken a lot of grief for good reason this session. There have been some less than favorable results from our state lawmakers.
    But as the final seconds wound down for this year’s legislative session, the House and Senate got one right.
    With only one vote in opposition between the two houses, they passed HB 2555 that rectifies an embarrassing open records problem for Kansas. As the only state in the nation that kept probable cause affidavits secret, Kansas allowed law enforcement officials to search your home and you would never find out why unless you spent thousands of dollars in court to get the sealed records unsealed.
    Rep. John Rubin of Shawnee was a true hero of public access on this bill. He worked tirelessly with the Kansas Press Association and other groups to make sure the bill made it to the floor for a vote. With the exception of only one no vote from Leavenworth, all Kansas Representatives and Senators voted in favor of the measure.
    But I was glad to see Butler County’s State Senator, Ty Masterson use his position of leadership to work the bill through the State Senate.
    This bill, which is still waiting for Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature changes that. Now, within five days of the search warrant being served, the affidavit becomes a public record unless a judge seals it.
    In most counties, the process to make the records public will take far less than five days.
    Kansas doesn’t have good open record or open meetings laws. This bill was a big step in the right direction.
    Locally, I pointed out what I thought was a problematic path the city of Augusta was on with access to public records and information.
    Under a former administration, the informational memorandum for the city council was killed and other steps were being taken to shield city actions from public knowledge.
    Since Josh Shaw took over as City Manager, he has worked with the governing body and other city staff to make sure Augusta is an example to the rest of the state on how to be an open government.
    Page 2 of 2 - Shaw makes the entire agenda and all related information that is not confidential by law available on the city’s website and for public inspection at least three days before each meeting. He also brought back the informational memorandum and is making it one of the most beneficial documents for both those who make decisions for the city and anyone who wants to keep up with city government.
    As Mayor Kristey Williams pointed out Monday night, Shaw provided an update on all 21 of the active projects currently in the works across the city.
    With the access that Mayor Williams and several on the council allow the public, I wasn’t worried that the city would do anything under the table. I was worried that the policies being put into place would allow the city to do something under the table.
    As it stands now, if you don’t know what the city is doing, it is your own fault..
    Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: kbush@butlercountytimesgazette.com

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