Legislative Achievements - 2023 Session

Issues in which KPI played a key role and/or laid the groundwork.
Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion
The tax credit scholarship program is expanded to make more students eligible and to increase the value of the tax credit. Eligibility increases from 185% of the federal poverty level to 250%, and the tax credit goes from 70% to 75%. The eligibility expansion allows a family of four with up to $75,000 in income to participate in the program.
Micro School Accreditation
Newly-formed microschools can apply to participate in the tax credit scholarship program if they are in the process of becoming accredited. Accreditation had been required for participation, and the process can take years to complete.
Nonpublic Student Athletics Participation Eligibility
Nonpublic students, including homeschool students, can participate in any activities offered by a public school district that are regulated, supervised, promoted, or developed by the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
Prompted Legislative Intervention on Room Sharing Between Opposite Genders
Investigative reporting by our media outlet, the Sentinel, prompted legislation to prevent school districts from forcing girls to share hotel rooms with biological males. Governor Kelly vetoed the bill, but it was overridden with some Democrats joining in.
SPED Funding Research and Reform
KPI research helped the Legislature overcome a massive campaign to increase special education (SPED) funding by $1.1 billion over five years. The education lobby said SPED funding was less than required in state law, but we proved that the statutory formula doesn’t count all SPED-associated state aid; if it were, the Legislature would have overfunded SPED. Just a $7.5 million increase was provided, which was already planned.

Legislative Achievements - 2022 Session

Issues in which KPI played a key role and/or laid the groundwork.
1. Mandatory Open Enrollment
Schools must accept students from outside their district if capacity exists. This is the state’s second school choice program.
2. Building needs assessments
Districts must identify barriers to improving achievement and the budgetary changes needed to remove them, and estimate how long it will take to get all students to be proficient in reading and math. The report for each school must be posted on the district’s website.
3. Third-grade reading initiative
The 2022 Every Student Can Read Act requires school districts to implement programs to ensure that third-graders achieve competencies in phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency, and reading comprehension.
4. Occupational license exemption for eyebrow threaders
Eyebrow threaders will no longer need a government license that required them to spend thousands of dollars going to cosmetology school even though less than 1% of training (if that) was devoted to eyebrow threading.
5. Asset forfeiture
Kansas Justice Institute’s amicus brief and our legislative work led to an improvement in asset forfeiture and “contraband” rules. A man whose antique Corvette was confiscated because the VIN plate was altered during a restoration will get his car back plus $20,000 and such actions cannot happen in the future.
6. Truth in Taxation enhancements
County clerks must submit a list of all actions taken on property tax increases to a central state database. Roll call votes are also required to be shown on the report so taxpayers know who voted for and against each tax change.
7. Raw milk labeling
We stopped the Department of Agriculture from placing onerous labeling and advertising requirements on raw milk that codified the victory of our 2019 lawsuit on behalf of a small raw milk dairy.
8. Occupational licensing Advanced Practice Registered Nurses
We were part of a coalition that removed the requirement for APRNs to pay a doctor for the privilege of working independently.
9. Charitable Privacy Act
We were part of a coalition that passed a prohibition on the state from requiring the disclosure of personal information about a person’s affiliation with a non-profit.

Prior Legislative Achievements - KPI Leading Role

Restricting Property Tax Increases

Truth in Taxation – requires city, county, and school officials to vote on the entire property tax increases they impose. When new property values are set this year, mill levies will automatically be reduced so that the new valuations bring in the same dollar amount of property tax to cities, counties, and school districts as in 2020. If local officials want to increase the revenue-neutral mill levy, they must notify citizens of their intent, hold a public hearing to accept input, and then vote on the entire property tax increase they impose.

Prohibiting Valuation Increases for routine maintenance – county appraisers may no longer increase valuations solely for routine replacements or repairs.

COVID Small Business Relief Act – businesses with 50 or fewer employees that were shut down or restricted by state or local officials can get a partial property tax rebate. Two-thirds of the refund is paid by the State and one-third by the county. Beginning in 2022, the owner of any building maintaining a business on the property that was shut down or restricted pursuant to a declared disaster emergency can get a proportional property tax refund from the county.

Improving the Property Tax Appeals Process

The burden of proof in property tax appeals in district court is placed on counties. District court appeals are de novo trials, where issues of law and fact are determined anew, and the county must prove the validity of its appraisal by a preponderance of the evidence.

Valuations cannot be increased during the appeals process. Taxpayers have complained about valuations being increased above the amount being appealed at different levels of the appeals process.

More time to request a full BOTA opinion. Parties and their attorneys now have 21 days following service to request a full and complete opinion; previously, it was 14 days from receipt.

BOTA orders and notices must be sent electronically if requested by taxpayers and their representatives. This one helps make the appeals process a little simpler.

BOTA members may serve 180 days beyond the expiration of their term. This prevents BOTA appeals from being put on hold pending the appointment and confirmation of a successor.

Making the Appraisal Process Compliant with State Law

Appraisal courses for county appraisers and Board of Tax Appeals members must be approved by the Kansas real estate appraisal board. This change is needed because at least one organization – the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) – offering training courses openly promotes appraisal methods on big box retailers that are contrary to established Kansas law. Johnson County has lost every one of its “dark store theory” cases, as explained in this Sentinel article.

County appraisers must comply with uniform standards of professional practice. USPAP is the generally recognized ethical and performance standard for the appraisal profession in the U.S. This is additional taxpayer protection against the county’s illegal ‘dark store’ valuations on big box retailers.

The Property Valuation Director at the Department of Revenue may no longer adopt rules and regulations concerning appropriate standards for performing appraisals. This is more protection against ‘dark store’ valuation hikes.

Counties must notify the PVD Director when an appraiser is dismissed and provide the reason. We documented cases of fired appraisers being hired in other counties – and being fired again – because appraisers are hired from an approved list, but there was no process for getting names off the list.

Higher standards for appraisers. This removes the provision that a person may be qualified for the position of an appraiser by holding a valid residential evaluation specialist or certified assessment evaluation designation from the International Association of Assessing Officers.

Expanding the Tax Credit Scholarship for Low-Income Students

Tax credit scholarships worth up to $8,000 are now available to low-income students all across Kansas through the 8th- grade. Scholarships were previously available only to students in the 100 worst-performing schools.


Association Health Plans

Small employers are now permitted to join associations with other employers to offer health coverage at better premiums available to large groups.


School accountability

KPI developed legislation requiring school districts to certify that their budgets allocate sufficient funds to Instruction – defined as a direct interaction between teachers and students – so that students can achieve statutorily-required outcomes. The legislation passed the House, but Senate negotiators refused to consider it in negotiations on school finance legislation. In addition to the obvious benefit to students, the legislation would provide the state with a strong legal defense for the next iteration of the current lawsuit or the next school funding lawsuit. We’re already laying the groundwork to pass this next year.


Prevented expansion of online sales tax collections

A U.S. Supreme Court decision allows states to force retailers to collect sales tax even if they don’t have a physical presence in the state. To prevent this from allowing the government to tax and spend more, KPI proposed using any new revenue from this tax to reduce the sales tax on food. Our suggestion was incorporated in a broad tax relief bill that passed both chambers but was vetoed twice by Governor Kelly.


Attempt to prevent the third tax increase since 2017

KPI was part of a broad coalition attempting to reverse a state income tax increase resulting from federal tax reform. Our bill would have allowed Kansans to itemize deductions for state purposes even if they took the federal standard deduction, and it would have prevented multinational companies from having to pay income tax on money earned overseas and repatriated. The bill passed both chambers, but Governor Kelly vetoed it and there weren’t enough votes to override the veto.


Electricity Rates

KPI has been part of a multi-year coalition effort to reduce electric rates, which are the highest in the region and a major barrier to economic development. Legislation passed this year requiring the state commission to conduct a study showing why rates are so high and what corrective measures can be taken. Utility companies opposed the legislation.


Medicaid Expansion Prevented

KPI was part of a coalition that fought off another push to expand Medicaid; our research proved that expansion would cost Kansans over $13 billion in the first 10 years without necessarily improving outcomes. During the 2017 session, a gubernatorial veto was nearly overridden. However, in the 2018 session legislation to expand Medicaid, as part of ObamaCare, failed to make it through either legislative chamber.


Voter Empowerment on Property Taxes

A serious effort was made in 2018 to undermine voter input on local property tax hikes; see below for the backstory. Local government wanted to go back to the days of hiding behind “flat” mill rates while property valuations skyrocketed. Local governments were defeated in their work to disregard voter input in the name of governmental inefficiency.

Tax Handouts and Transparency

KPI and other groups shined light on an effort to provide tax incentives for specific types of investment in rural Kansas. Our rural communities need real economic development. They do not need tax carve outs of little benefit that simply raise taxes on the rest of the state, even other rural taxpayers. Another piece of legislation was advanced through the House that would have created a database of economic development programs in the state. We’ll work again next year, discussing economic development abuse with legislators in both parties, to see this policy made law.

Occupational Licensure

KPI played a supporting role in loosening restrictions on people seeking to provide basic dental cleanings, expanding multi-state licensing for nurses, and making it easier for people to become cosmetologists. Some of these efforts were successful while others were not. But, KPI continues to play a role in making it easier for customers to be served and individuals to find a job without undue barriers to entry.


Changes to federal tax law in 2017 allowed for 529 college-savings plans to be used for K-12 expenses. KPI worked directly with the State Treasurer to provide support and guidance to bring this change to Kansas 529 plans as well.


Constitutional Implications of Spending

House leadership worked directly with KPI to include language in a spending bill providing for spending hikes to be cut if the Court demanded more money for K-12 education. It took a full-court press from the opposition to get this provision removed from the appropriations bill. However, the effort highlighted the budgetary impact of continued Supreme Court meddling in K-12 finance. It was part of a larger effort to bring other constituencies into the fight for a constitutional amendment on K-12 funding.


Constitutional Amendment

A concerted effort to remove judicial interference in education funding decisions was undertaken for the first time in over a decade. KPI played a key role in seeing a constitutional amendment through the House Judiciary Committee, albeit this is a small step. This bill would have returned the “power of the purse” to elected legislators instead of unelected judges.


School Choice

A tax credit scholarship program for low-income and special needs students is the state’s first real school choice program. Our extensive research showing student achievement is much lower than media and the education establishment reports convinced legislators that this program is necessary. The program was approved in the 2014 session, and in 2017, we led the fight to expand the program to make more donors eligible to provide more educational opportunities to students. Another expansion in 2021 raised the income-eligibility level and allows students in Grades K-8 to participate.


K-12 Budget Certification

this first-ever accountability measure on school spending requires districts to certify that, in their opinion, they have allocated enough money to Instruction (direct interaction between students and teachers) so that all students can perform at grade level. School districts have told courts (and they agreed) that having large numbers of students below grade level somehow proves that districts are underfunded. This accountability measure provides the state with contradictory evidence in future lawsuits.

Education Savings Accounts

Our ESA bill passed the House in 2021 but died in the Senate on a tie vote. Previous attempts have not gotten out of committee. Students below grade level or suffering from dyslexia would have been eligible for an ESA worth about $4,500 annually, which could be used for private tuition and other educational opportunities.

Funding tied to remote learning limitations

school districts will only receive $5,000 per student if more than 40 hours of remote learning are mandated in a school year. The State Board of Education can approve waivers that cannot exceed 240 hours. Many school districts only provided remote learning or remote/in-person hybrid learning to middle school and high school students throughout most of the 2020-21 school year, but received full funding as though students were in-person full-time.


Student outcomes are more important than the amount of money spent

Many legislators credit our work in this area with influencing the 2014 State Supreme Court on school funding (Gannon v. State of Kansas). KPI discovered that previous court rulings were based on deliberately-skewed research designed to inflate required funding. The Court invalidated the ‘actual cost’ method of measuring adequate funding and adopted outcome criteria (the Rose standards) in its place. The Court also agreed with our position that all funding sources should count. This work paved the way for the elimination of the dysfunctional school funding formula in 2015.

Creation of a new school funding formula

The dysfunctional 1992 school funding formula was eliminated in 2015, and a temporary two-year block grant system was put in place. The legislature failed to take advantage of this opportunity as the new formula implemented for the 2018 school year is remarkably like the old formula, whereby schools are not held to account for student outcomes and taxpayers’ money is not efficiently spent.


State Education Aid correction

KPI discovered that about $600 million in state-mandated property tax was recorded as Local aid instead of State aid. Beginning in 2015, that money is sent to the state for distribution, so it is properly recorded as State aid.

School Spending Transparency

School districts are now required to post a one-page budget summary (designed by KPI) on the home page of their web sites and distribute it at every local school board meeting.


School District Cash Reserves Now Accessible

KPI discovered school districts were diverting education dollars to build large cash reserves while claiming to be underfunded. Legislation was passed to remove restrictions on the use of carryover cash reserves in 2011. Legislators are considering making partial use of excess funds mandatory.


Mandatory reporting of cash reserves to local school boards

School districts must annually provide a detailed report of the unencumbered cash balance in every fund to local school board members.


Alternative licensing for teachers

People with degrees or professional certifications in science, technology, engineering, and vocational fields will no longer be required to have an education degree to teach in high school.


Equal access for non-union teacher organizations

Before this 2013 law, most school districts would only permit a union to have access to teachers. Since passage, the non-union Association of American Educators has seen membership surge, and several small school districts have de-certified from their union.

Collective bargaining reform for school districts

The number of mandatory subjects of bargaining was reduced from 31 to a maximum of 8; each party may select up to 3 subjects in addition to pay and time worked.


K-12 Efficiency and Student Performance Commission

KPI wrote the legislation to create a study commission that spent six months in 2014 exploring a variety of efficiency opportunities, including the consolidation of non-classroom functions across district lines.KPI president Dave Trabert was appointed to the Commission and co-authored the Minority Report, which highlighted many important findings, including:

1.) School districts don’t know how to define or measure performance against the Rose standards, which the Supreme Court now says is the litmus test for funding adequacy; if schools cannot measure Rose, they have no legal basis for claiming to lack funding to achieve the Rose standards.

2.) School districts acknowledged that they choose to operate inefficiently.

3.) School districts want collective bargaining reform that dramatically reduces the number of mandatory subjects of bargaining.

Universities required to publish degree prospectus

State schools must publish a prospectus for degreed programs, including the average number of years and total cost required to complete and the earning potential upon completion.


College savings accounts

Changes to federal tax law in 2017 allowed for 529 college-savings plans to be used for K-12 expenses. KPI worked directly with the State Treasurer to provide support and guidance to bring this change to Kansas 529 plans as well.


Income tax cuts

Historic income tax cuts that could have ultimately led to the elimination of the state income tax went into effect in 2013. KPI paved the way by showing that Kansas was headed for budgetary disaster without tax reform and then showed legislators that spending control is the key to tax reform. The 2016 election sent new legislators to Topeka who approved the largest tax increase in state history and undid all of the positive economic benefits of allowing citizens to keep more of their hard-earned money, but our original effort still produced $2.8 billion in income tax savings through fiscal year 2016.


Income tax relief for businesses and individuals

the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 caused state tax to rise for certain businesses and individuals. Kansas finally eliminated those provisions in 2021 to allow individuals who take the federal standard deduction to itemize for state purposes. Business changes also implemented include global intangible low tax income (GILTI), business interest, full expensing, and net operating loss carryforward.


Union giveaways

Multiple proposals have been put forward in recent years to reward unions, both public and private sector, for their defense of governmental and special interests at the expense of taxpayers. Tenure for public school teachers was made a prerogative of local districts rather than state-mandated several years ago, with KPI’s help, and efforts to repeal this important change were defeated. The idea of paying a prevailing wage, thereby helping cost-inflated union projects and costing taxpayers more money, was introduced and defeated this year. An attempt to effectively eliminate Right to Work was also defeated.

Property tax reform of 2014

With some exceptions (including but not limited to the value of new construction and spending on public safety) cities and counties cannot increase property taxes by more than inflation without voter approval. Another property tax bill allows tax appeals to be taken to District Court after a full opinion has been rendered by the Board of Tax Appeals.  Appeals to the District Court are considered de novo trials with evidentiary hearings during which issues of law and facts will be determined anew.  The bill also includes improvements in the valuation of oil and gas leases, and there are multiple improvements to the appraisal and appeals process to become more taxpayer-friendly.

Property tax Truth in Taxation Act of 2021

Elected officials in every local taxing authority must vote on the entire property tax increase they impose. Mill levies are automatically reduced each year so that new valuations generate the same dollar amount of property tax.  If officials want more money, they must notify voters of their intent, hold a public hearing, and then vote on the record.

Improvements to the property tax appeals

The Truth in Taxation Act included these enhancements:

  1. The burden of proof in property tax appeals in district court is placed on counties.
  2. Valuations cannot be increased during the appeals process.
  3. Taxpayers and their attorneys have more time to request a full opinion from the Board of Taxation and BOTA orders must be sent electronically if requested.
Improvements to the property tax appraisal

The Truth in Taxation Act also included these enhancements:

  1. Appraisers may not increase valuations solely for routine replacement or repairs.
  2. Appraisal courses for county appraisers and BOTA members must be approved by the Kansas real estate appraisal board.
  3. County appraisers must comply with uniform standards of professional practice.
  4. The Department of Revenue is prohibited from adopting rules and regulations for appraisal standards.
Occupational licensing

Kansas must recognize licenses issued by other states.


Emergency management reforms

the Legislature or the Legislative Coordinating Council can override governors’ orders. The governor is prohibited from closing schools (only local school boards can do that) and citizens are granted due process rights to challenge a governor’s executive orders and orders implemented by cities, counties, and school districts.


Public disclosure of state subsidy programs

after several years of highlighting the negative impacts of tax ‘incentives’ for theoretical economic development, KPI helped pass legislation requiring a public inventory of all subsidy programs and periodic audits to determine their effectiveness.


Electricity rate study approved

KPI has been part of a multi-year coalition effort to reduce electric rates, which are the highest in the region and a major barrier to economic development. Legsilation requires the state commission to conduct a study showing why rates are so high and what corrective measures can be taken.


Public Pension Reform

Multiple studies showing the true nature of the unfunded liabilities in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) led to 2013 reform that puts new and unvested employees into a hybrid cash balance plan instead of the defined benefit plan. KPI continues to be the driving force for ending the defined benefit plan for all employees and putting everyone into a defined contribution / 401(k) plan.


Performance-based budgeting

Passed in 2016, this law requires each agency to prioritize programs and functions according to effectiveness and show the cost of each. The Legislature allowed three years for the plan to be implemented. The progress so far has been slow and less than effective, but KPI is monitoring the process.

Civil asset forfeiture

KPI testified with groups as diverse as the ACLU and The Federalist Society to see more transparency brought to asset forfeiture in Kansas. Asset forfeiture is where police take property from citizens when a crime is suspected of having been committed, and where citizens have very little recourse to reclaim their property if not charged or found guilty. We passed a law requiring police to publish lists of all property taken, which is the first step in a larger effort to protect property rights

Live streaming of committee hearings

Much of the legislature’s work happens in committee hearings that are now viewable online. Previously, only those in the capitol itself were able to truly understand the goings-on in committee. This is a huge transparency win.