TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) – Lawmakers in every state have adopted laws requiring most government meetings and records to be open to the public. But in some states, including Kansas, lawmakers have exempted themselves from complying.
The Associated Press sent open-records request to the top lawmakers in all 50 states and most governors, seeking copies of their daily schedules and emails from the government accounts for the week of Feb. 1-7. The AP received more denials than approvals from lawmakers. It did not generally request emails from private accounts because rules and practices on those vary widely from state to state.
The Kansas Open Records Act specifically exempts legislators’ records from potential disclosure, and both Republican Senate President Susan Wagle and GOP House Speaker Ray Merrick cited the exemption in declining to release calendars or emails from state accounts.
However, the Legislature’s two top Democrats — Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs — released their calendars and emails. Hensley’s office responded to the AP’s request within days, releasing more than 1,000 pages of documents and indexing them in black binders. Burroughs’ office released about 600 pages of documents.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback acknowledged last year that he uses a private cellphone and email account for official communications and has been doing so since he was a U.S. senator in the 1990s because sometimes it’s not clear whether something represents official business. His office released his calendar and about a dozen pages of copies of emails from his official state account.