By John Celock
Kansas lawmakers advanced legislation Tuesday that would classify election workers not being solicitors.
The House vote came after a long debate over an amendment that would have allowed the classification to extend to apartment and condo complexes and other spots under control of property managers. The main bill would allow for campaign workers to campaign at homes that have no solicitation signs, in line with a Supreme Court ruling on the subject.
Rep. Joseph Scapa (R-Wichita) offered the amendment for apartments, gated communities and other spots, saying that those living in these areas should be able to have campaign workers and candidates come to their door.
“Just because someone rents in an apartment complex they should be able to hear from us,” Scapa said of the amendment that failed 27-84.
Scapa’s amendment set off a bipartisan flurry of debate over the fairly non-controversial bill with opponents noting that it would cause more confusion for local governments on campaigning in assisted living facilities. Rep. John Alcala (D-Topeka) said that campaign workers and candidates can arrange with property managers to campaign at a complex or to hold a meeting in a common area for residents.
Alcala’s comments centered mainly on nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Scapa said that his amendment would not set off a flurry of campaigning in these types of residential complexes, and was mainly centered on apartments, condos and gated communities.
“It does not interfere with nursing homes,” Scapa said. “If they don’t want you there they don’t have to listen to you.”
Scapa’s amendment was not the only one. Rep. Marvin Kleeb (R-Overland Park) briefly offered an amendment to reduce the period for advanced voting from 20 days to 15 days. Kleeb quickly withdrew his amendment.
House Democratic Agenda Chairman Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) noted that there are other concerns with the Scapa amendment. He noted that in Wichita there have been issues of campaign workers also trying to solicit other types of business at the same time. He speculated that someone could obtain access to apartment complexes under the guise of campaigning and also attempt to sell windows at the same time.
“In my community we’ve had canvassers go out with political palm cards that also include $5 off for a burger,” Whipple said.