Kansas House quickly passes body cam bill, focuses on transparency

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TOPEKA (CAPITOL BUREAU) — Lawmakers in the House quickly got to work Wednesday.

“In Topeka this past summer, we had an incident happened that I felt almost put the city at the edge of civil unrest,” explained State Rep. John Alcala as he asked for support for his bill.

Under the bill, law enforcement agencies are required to release body camera video in deadly or excessive force investigations to families within 20 days. The House voted unanimously to support the bill.

“I think it builds a trust that we need to start building. We talk about transparency this is the first step forward,” explained Alcala.

Lawmakers also advanced a bill giving county commissioners the authority to set their own elections budgets and decide salaries for appointees.

“It puts some control over an appointed official who currently has no oversight,” said State Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka.

Miller offered an amendment to allow people in the four largest counties to elect their own elections commissioner, currently the position is appointed by the Secretary of State, Miller’s amendment failed.

“I support the step forward, I wish it went further,” said Miller.

A bill requiring more transparency when it comes to asset seizures and forfeiture of property is also moving forward. Under the bill, law enforcement agencies are required to report their forfeiture practices to the KBI. Agencies would also have to extend the amount of time for people to get their property back.

“The biggest thing it does is add data collection. Right now we have agencies across the state seizing assets and forfeiting them and we don’t have a good idea at the state level how much that is happening,” explained State Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka.

Wichita Democrat State Rep. Gail Finney expressed concerns with the bill, but admitted it’s a step forward.

“This has been a long time coming so we do need to make changes and this is a good first step. However, I want to encourage our legislature to not stop here,” Finney said.

Late in the day there was an attempt to repeal the death penalty, that attempt was cut short and no debate on the topic moved forward.

The House is expected to take final action on Wednesday’s bills Thursday morning.

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