Governor Jeff Colyer today signed three transparency bills and issued an executive order aimed at increasing government transparency and accountability. By signing House Substitute for SB 336, Senate Substitute for Senate Substitute for HB 2386, HB 2642 and issuing Executive Order 18-13, Colyer seeks to build on a number of transparency bills and executive orders put into law since he took over as governor in January.
“Transparency has been and will continue to be a priority for my administration,” said Gov. Colyer. “These bills, coupled with Executive Order 18-13 are important to me and to Kansans across the state. I appreciate the legislature for passing these critical measures and I look forward to continued work to increase government transparency and accountability for the people we serve.”
The first measure Gov. Colyer signed, House Substitute for Senate Bill 336 amends the statute governing access to information pertaining to children in need of care and child fatalities. With the signing of this law, the Secretary of the Department for Children and Families may now release the age and sex of the child, date of the fatality, and a summary of any previous reports of abuse or neglect involving the child in addition to any DCF recommended services provided to the child.
“This legislation is the cornerstone of the many things we have done to be more open and transparent to the public,” said Gina Meier-Hummel, DCF Secretary. “This measure strikes the correct balance between being sensitive to the need for privacy for families and ensuring that we are being transparent and getting the appropriate information out to the public.”
The second component of House Substitute for Senate Bill 336 changes the disclosure of audio or video recordings made and retained by law enforcement using a body camera or a vehicle camera. Under the previous law, only certain individuals were able to gain access to these recordings.
SB 336 expands the list of people who can request access to the footage to include a spouse, adult child, or parent of the deceased. This bill also adds a provision requiring the agency to allow the access to recordings within 20 days after the request is made.
Kansas Attorney Michael Kuckelman, whose clients struggled under the old law to obtain footage after losing a family member, spoke positively about the bill.
“The important thing about this audio and video is that it helps both families and law enforcement,” said Kuckelman, “There are times where law enforcement is falsely accused and this will demonstrate to the public if there’s a false accusation. If on the other hand, there is wrong doing, this provides an opportunity for a family to bring that to light and make certain that the public knows what is going on in their community.”
Governor Colyer also signed the Senate Substitute for Senate Substitute HB 2386, which requires agencies processing applications for employment that include a license, certification, or registration to list not just the qualifications, but also the specific civil and criminal records that would disqualify an applicant from receiving that license, certification, or registration. Additionally, if an individual has a misdemeanor record that would disqualify them, but has not been convicted of another crime five years preceding the application for licensure, the record cannot be used to disqualify the candidate at the end of the five-year period following the satisfied sentence.
This bill is coupled with executive order 18-13, which takes the bill a step further, by requiring agencies to post offenses that would disqualify a potential applicant prominently on the agency website.
“Executive order 18-13 allows individuals to know what the rules are without having to go searching for it in the fine print,” said Gov. Jeff Colyer.
The governor also signed HB 2642, which clarifies and strengthens campaign and election laws, while also updating the penalties for several violations.
“Some candidates were avoiding campaign finance reports eight days before the election because the penalty was low,” said Rep. Keith Esau. “This bill is an important step towards fixing our campaign finance laws.”