Friday, January 31, 2014

Legislator questions whether local government lobbyist can testify on gun bill

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- A state legislator Friday questioned whether a representative of the Unified Government of Kansas City and Wyandotte County broke the law by testifying on a pro-gun bill.

The issue came up during a hearing on House Bill 2473, which would prohibit cities and counties from restricting the open carry of firearms and knives, and using tax dollars to administer gun buyback programs.

State Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, supports the bill. Mike Taylor, a lobbyist for the Unified Government of Kansas City, doesn't.

When Taylor spoke against the bill, Hildabrand said he was considering getting a legal opinion from Attorney General Derek Schmidt on whether Taylor violated a law approved last year on lobbying and gun issues.

Hildabrand said he understood that law to mean that "taxpayer money can't be used to lobby against the 2nd Amendment because that is constitutional law."

But Taylor said the law says state tax dollars can't be used to try to influence gun control legislation, and that he is paid through local revenue.

Taylor said Hildabrand was trying to silence opposing viewpoints.

"It's a trend I see more and more in this building," Taylor said.

"I find great irony in him in trying to intimidate me on expressing a valid opinion under my community's First Amendment rights on a significant piece of legislation," Taylor said.

Hildabrand said he needed clarification on the law.

HB 2473 is backed the National Rifle Association and Kansas State Rifle Association whose representatives say gun owners shouldn't have to contend with a hodgepodge of local rules governing their rights to carry guns.

On Friday, Taylor said that while open carry of a gun might seem OK in western Kansas, it would raise alarms in an urban environment.

"Not every community is the same," he said.

After his testimony, Hildabrand said he felt Taylor may have broken the law by testifying.

Later, Taylor questioned whether the law may actually prohibits legislators from proposing gun legislation, since it bans the use of state tax dollars on the issue. "Does that prohibit a legislator talking about gun legislation? That would be ridiculous too," Taylor said.