Keep state budget negotiations out of backrooms

One way to reduce “he said, she said” disagreements at the Statehouse – such as the dispute about whether House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, referred to Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, as childish and egotistical – is to not have so many closed meetings. Merrick’s disputed comments were made during a closed meeting with House Republican freshmen. Of more concern was that until Wednesday, budget and tax negotiations had been occurring in closed meetings between Merrick, Wagle and Gov. Sam Brownback, rather than in open conference committee meetings. Such backroom dealings reduce the public’s faith in the legislative process – and suggest that state leaders also don’t have much faith in lawmakers or the process.