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May 31, 2012

Kansas Service Groups Balk at New Lobbying Restrictions

Several Kansas human-service providers say they will drop state contracts unless the state changes new language in the agreements to implement potentially sweeping limits on lobbying by the organizations, according to the Kansas Health Institute news service.

The provision, inserted into Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services contracts for the fiscal year starting July 1, bars grantees from using state money "to pay, directly or indirectly, any person for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency," or state and federal lawmakers and their staffs.

Such agreements typically bar recipients from spending government funds to lobby on a specific bill or regulation but do not address broader education campaigns or action on larger policy and budget issues. Contractors said terms such as "any agency" and "indirectly" make the ban too broad and, in one provider's words, "unenforceably vague."

Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, said it is "just good public policy to prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to lobby the legislature to spend even more taxpayer dollars. That is an abusive practice that leads to other sorts of inappropriate use of taxpayer funds."