The Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government has filed a formal complaint about the closure of the Senate chamber to media while business was being conducted on Wednesday.
“When the Senate ordered the news media removed from the chamber and the galleries closed, the Sunshine Coalition is of the belief that’s an unconscionable violation of not only the Kansas Open Meetings Act, but also even the Kansas Constitution and the Senate’s own rules,” said the Coalition’s Ron Keefover.
The Coalition wants action from the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.
“We’re asking that the Attorney General, at a minimum, arrive at a consent decree with the Senate President, so that closures such as this won’t happen in the future,” said Keefover. “There’s a process and the Attorney General has the enforcement powers as of 2015 to do that.”
The fact that demonstrators were not willingly leaving the gallery was not enough reason to allow for its closure.
“Media are never barred from being present when there’s civil disobedience,” said Keefover. “They might be confined to an area, but, in my long history, I have never seen media just actually excluded from a public event, particularly government, such as this.”
Keefover notes that if the Senate had gaveled out, they could have followed the Open Meetings Act, though he argues that media should still have been allowed to cover the arrests as they occurred.