House votes to create commission on outsourcing government work

TOPEKA – After a lengthy floor fight, the House today passed a bill establishing an 11-member commission to study ways to outsource public jobs to private-sector companies and nonprofit groups.

The group would be called the Kansas Advisory Council on Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships.

According to House Bill 2194, the council’s main responsibility would be to “review and evaluate the possibility of outsourcing goods or services provided by a state agency to a private business or not-for-profit organization that is able to provide the same type of good or service, and whether such action would result in cost savings to the state.”

The council would also be tasked with identifying areas where government services compete with private business, “to determine ways to eliminate such competition.”

Outnumbered Democrats taunted conservative Republicans, saying that in creating another commission, they are expanding government in order to shrink it.

Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, pointed out that the Republicans cheered 44 days ago when newly elected Gov. Sam Brownback, in his State of the State address, repeatedly said “The days of ever-expanding government are over.”

“What’s our response?” Dillmore said. “Let’s create a commission for this. Let’s create a commission for that. Let’s grow some government.”

A Democratic amendment, that would have specified that funding to pay for the council’s expenses come out of the governor’s office budget, was turned aside.

Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, who carried the bill on the floor, said the costs of the council would be minuscule compared to potential savings from privatization.

“This is not about growing government, it’s quite to the contrary,” he said.

The council would include:

– Three members appointed by the governor, one of whom must be either the lieutenant governor or the head of a state agency.

– Six members appointed by the speaker of the House and president of the Senate.

– Two members appointed by the minority leaders in the House and Senate.

Ten of the 11 members “shall be engaged in private business,” according to the bill.

Democrats objected that the Republicans can appoint two legislators to the committee while they’d be barred from appointing any.

“That is just not done up here,” said Rep. Janice Pauls, D-Hutchinson. “It would hurt my feelings if I let it.”

The bill passed 68-51. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.