An informed citizenry is an essential element of maintaining a free society. Having a deeper understanding of how legislation impacts education freedom, economic freedom and the constitutional principles of individual liberty and limited government allows citizens to better understand the known and often unknown consequences of legislative issues.
CLICK HERE to download a pocket-sized copy of the 2015 Freedom Index
The 2015 Freedom Index is a continuation of a coalition project started in 2012. Since 2013, the Freedom Index has been, and remains, solely an effort of KPI and is intended to provide educational information to the public about broad economic and education issues that are important to the citizens of our State. It is the product of nonpartisan analysis, study, and research and is not intended to directly or indirectly endorse or oppose any candidate for public office.
Economic freedom and student-focused education are not partisan issues. Indeed, each version of the Kansas Freedom Index has shown that quite clearly. Legislators registered as Republicans represented at least 70 percent of all House members and all Senate members since 2012. Those counts would produce fairly strong results one way or the other if economic freedom was a partisan issue, but instead, the overall score of both chambers was very near neutral. (See Methodology for an explanation)It is not about party affiliations or labels like liberal, moderate or conservative. Rather, it is about a philosophical belief in the role of government. The filters are not ‘D’ and ‘R’, but ‘E,’ ‘L’ and ‘C’. Some citizens have a strong philosophical belief in an Expanding government, while others are grounded in a strong philosophical belief in Limited government. And there are some citizens for whom the primary litmus test is more Circumstantial rather than a strong philosophical belief about the role of government. Government also is the dividing line on education issues. Debates on school choice issues, for example, often come down to whether the interests of individual students or school districts should prevail.
MethodologyLegislative action in the Kansas House and Senate, whether in the form of final action or some of the many important steps along the way, are selected for inclusion in the Kansas Freedom Index based on the impact the proposed legislation has on student-focused education issues, the free market and the constitutional principles of individual liberty and limited government. Selections were included in the Index to provide educational information about broad economic and education issues. The Index is the product of nonpartisan analysis, study, and research; it is not intended to directly or indirectly endorse or oppose any candidate for public office.Each legislator’s vote, or failure to vote, is assigned points from one of two tiers based on the criteria listed below, with points assessed to each legislator based upon his or her vote. A vote in support of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and student-focused education will receive positive points; a vote opposed to those principles will receive negative points. A vote of Present or Not Voting will be awarded zero points.
For example, consider a bill creating a new licensing board that requires dog groomers to pay a small fee and meet state requirements to operate. The Economic Freedom Index would be scored as follows: negative one (-1) for creation of the licensing board and negative one (-1) for creating a new fee; total score assigned would be negative two (-2). A legislator voting against this bill would be awarded positive two (+2) points. Conversely, a legislator voting for the bill would be awarded negative two (-2) points.
A positive cumulative score indicates that a legislator generally supported freedom, while a negative cumulative score indicates that a legislator generally opposed freedom. A score of zero indicates that a legislator was generally neutral on freedom. The cumulative score only pertains to the specific votes included in the Kansas Freedom Index and should not be interpreted otherwise. A different set of issues and/or a different set of circumstances could result in different cumulative scores.
Vote tracking information, bill summaries, etc. were compiled via
Bill Track 50, an independent clearinghouse of legislative data.
Tier 1 – Three points awarded for each applicable criteria which has a major impact on the functioning of student-focused education, free markets or the constitutional principles of individual liberty and limited government.
Tier 2 – One point awarded for each applicable criteria which has an important, but less significant, impact on the functioning of free markets or the constitutional principles of individual liberty, limited government.
The Freedom Percentage represents the relative position of a legislator’s score on a number line of the minimum and maximum score, with the percentage indicating proximity to the maximum score. For example, if a legislator with score range of ±43 and a score of zero would be at the 50% point of the minimum / maximum number line. A legislator with a score of negative 20 on that same range would be at the 26.7% point (Freedom Percentage) on the number line (or 73.7% away from the maximum). It is calculated by adding the maximum positive score for the House or Senate to each legislator’s actual score and dividing the total by twice the appropriate maximum score. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) and our 2012 coalition partners in developing this index. IFF is a non-partisan educational research institute and allowed us to use their Freedom Index as a model for this project.Methodology Update effective May 24, 2013: Recent legislative efforts to phase in income tax reform over multiple years have prompted a revision to our methodology. The 2012 Legislature passed legislation that, when fully implemented, would reduce taxes by more than $800 million per year. The 2013 Legislature passed changes that would ‘pay for’ tax reform by increasing the sales tax, reduce or eliminate income tax deductions but also reduce income tax rates in the future. The net effect over five or more years is a tax reduction but there would be tax increases in earlier years.Economic freedom results from reducing a tax burden, which requires a reduction in spending. The 2013 Legislature used various tax increases and some small spending reductions to ‘pay for’ the 2012 tax reform. Given that action and the fact that the current legislature cannot bind future legislatures, it cannot be said with absolute certainty that a net tax reduction planned for future years will actually take place. Accordingly, we will only consider the fiscal impact of multi-year phase-ins within the current budget cycle. Legislation that increases tax or fee revenue outside the current budget cycle, however, will be counted to avoid attempts to ‘game’ the system and never having tax increases scored because they fall outside the current budget cycle. This refinement is retroactive to the beginning of the 2013 Legislative session. Interpreting Legislators’ Votes
Some legislators may object to the inclusion or classification of their votes on a particular bill for a variety of reasons. Kansas Policy Institute acknowledges that such issues are subjective in nature and open to interpretation. The decision to include or exclude a particular bill or procedural vote is based on our view of the issues at hand without regard to party affiliation or the intent of an individual legislator.We also recognize that a legislator may occasionally cast a vote that is contrary to his or her true belief on an issue for procedural or parochial reasons. Unfortunately, there is no way to fairly interpret the intent behind each vote so in the interest of avoiding any concerns of partisanship, we simply record each vote as cast.It should also be noted that some legislators choose not to cast a vote in some cases (this is recorded as a vote of ‘Present’). When a legislator is not in the House or Senate chamber at the time of a vote, it is recorded as “Not Voting”. While the motive behind a ‘Present’ vote is often understood by regular observers of the Legislature, we assign zero points to ‘Present’ to avoid any concerns of partisanship. Similarly, legislators may be unavoidably absent when a vote is taken; zero points are awarded even though their position on an issue may be well known to ensure the non-partisan nature of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index.Again, the Kansas Freedom Index is intended to provide educational information to the public about broad economic and education issues that are important to the citizens of our State. It is the product of nonpartisan analysis, study, and research and is not intended to directly or indirectly endorse or oppose any candidate for public office.Lifetime Freedom IndexEach legislative session brings a different ‘mix’ of bills and circumstances, such that, in combination with the caveats in the preceding section, a legislator’s Freedom Index for a particular year may or may not be indicative of their complete record. Accordingly, a Lifetime Freedom Index was added effective with the 2015 Freedom Index.A Lifetime Freedom Index is assigned to every current legislator who participated in at least two legislative sessions but only back as far as the 2012 legislative session, which was the inaugural year of the Freedom Index. Service in previous sessions need not be contiguous to the current session and includes participation in a different chamber (House or Senate) in which they currently serve. The Index (percentage) for a single year represents the relative position of a legislator’s score on a number line of the minimum and maximum score, with the percentage indicating proximity to the maximum score. For example, if a legislator with score range of ±43 and a score of zero would be at the 50% point of the minimum / maximum number line. A legislator with a score of negative 20 on that same range would be at the 26.7% point (Freedom Index) on the number line (or 73.7% away from the maximum). It is calculated by adding the maximum positive score for the House or Senate to each legislator’s actual score and dividing the total by twice the appropriate maximum score. The Lifetime Freedom Index is calculated in the same manner as for a single year, but tabulates each legislator’s actual and maximum scores for every session in which they participated.