UPDATE: With the 2016 Special Session completed, the information below is no longer the complete picture of votes from the 2016 legislative sessions. PLEASE CLICK HERE to find the final, comprehensive Kansas Freedom Index that reflects both the regular and special sessions.
With the Trump v. Clinton drama dominating the political media, Kansans may be forgiven for not having a complete grasp of the goings-on in Topeka during the 2016 legislative session. Into this vacuum comes KPI’s 5th annual Kansas Freedom Index. The guide is a one-stop shop for the impact that a selection of legislative votes have on your ability to run your business, live your life, and raise your family as you see fit.
You might hear that certain legislation was passed or voted down, but it is often difficult to know whether your legislator voted in accordance with the promises made on your doorstep. The KFI seeks to fill some of those gaps by capturing the economic and educational freedom votes in the legislative session. This is the second year in which we’ve included a “Lifetime Score” for sitting legislators who have served in at least two sessions. 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.
Several trends have emerged over the years that are evident this year as well. The first and foremost is that political party has little, if anything, to do with the score a legislator receives in the Index. For example, within a range of ±44 in the House, scores for Republicans ranged from a high of 38 to a low of minus 14; twelve Republicans actually have negative scores. In the Senate, the Republican scores ranged from a high of 34 to a low of minus 3 within a range of ±42; three Republicans have negative scores and two scored neutral. Too many legislators seem motivated by political opportunity and convenience rather than an adherence to good government, trusting Kansans to run their own lives, and solid economics.
Maybe it was the shortness of the regular session but this year was also limited in the way some bills were ultimately scored. For instance, the much-discussed voter empowerment bill on local property taxes (HB 2088) resulted in a neutral score. This bill was vital – even if it has wrongly been called a “property tax lid” – but because of the compromises necessary to get it signed into law the bill had provisions with a negative impact on economic freedom and other provisions with a positive impact. Thus, the bill is not included in the KFI even though it will have a significant impact on the ability of local voters to control their property tax bill.
HB 2615 was a mash up of multiple bills that would have received a score but, it turns out, is neutral. Provisions to allow for more charity care have a positive impact on consumer-driven health care while demands for government licensure of acupuncturists erode the ability of practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine to help patients. Parliamentary necessity aside, these sort of tactics to move things through the legislative process can muddy the waters of an effort like the KFI. More importantly, they make it harder for the average Kansan to fully grasp what is truly happening in the statehouse.
The scores published today reflect the regular legislative session and will be updated if any action taken later this month in the Special Session warrants inclusion based on established criteria. The printed version of the Kansas Freedom Index will be published upon conclusion of the Special Session.
For a complete history of the KFI, and for a further explanation of methodology and explainers, please visit the full Freedom Index page here.
The Special Session promises to deliver pre-Independence Day fireworks. The influence of the smaller bills and votes taken in the regular 2016 session cannot be discounted. Any given bill could be argued for or against inclusion but, taken as a whole, the 2016 Kansas Freedom Index can help all Kansans achieve a better understanding of how much their elected officials in Topeka support student-focused education and economic freedom.