|AP Topeka statehouse reporter John Hanna|
John Hanna, an AP Reporter in Topeka is one of those people in Kansas I have always respected. Now, while reporters may view some of the outsiders as those kookie gadflies, it doesn't mean that we can't have sincere admiration for the truly difficult work that they do every day.
John Hanna has covered fleets of major issues in Kansas, and he has been at the heart of numerous scoops and great reporting. On June 8th in the State house, though, Hanna didn't just break a story - he taught legislators a little bit about what transparency truly means.
Ron Fournier from the National Journal covers it fantastically here:
In the middle of a budget stalemate in the middle of the country, Associated Press correspondent John Hanna passes a closed conference room en route to his basement office in the Kansas Statehouse. Glancing through a door window, Hanna sees Gov. Sam Brownback's budget director addressing 27 Republican lawmakers.
That's interesting, Hanna tells himself—the caucus was not publicly scheduled, as would be the custom in Kansas, and the state legislature is struggling to fix an $800 million deficit mostly caused by Brownback's 2012-2013 tax cuts. A long-awaited debate on the House floor was just canceled. Why are they meeting in secret? Hanna opens the door, walks in, and stands against a wall.
"This is a private meeting," one lawmaker barks. "You weren't invited."
Hanna crosses his arms. "I know that," he says, nodding at the Brownback aide, Shawn Sullivan, "but I'd like to hear what he has to say." After a few minutes of awkward silence, Budget Committee Chairman Marvin Kleeb shrugs. "It's OK," he says. "He can stay."John Hanna knew the rules - a meeting was being held in a public building, in a public conference room. No matter what the Republican budget director thought, this was not a 'private' meeting, and John Hanna had every right as a Kansas Taxpayer to be there.
What was reported out of that meeting was significant, far more significant than was first realized, as Shawn Sullivan, budget director for the Brownback administration discussed a 6.2% across the board cut if a budget deal was not hammered out in the state house.
John Hanna didn't just land a scoop - he served a notice that transparency matters to reporters who care about.
Kudos to John Hanna, who earns a raised glass from someone who just plays at being a gadfly.