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.
The 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.
Tracking the Economic & Education Freedom Votes of the Kansas Legislature…
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.
Legislative 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.
- Does it create or eliminate an agency, program or function of government? Does it attempt to prevent the consolidation of multiple agencies? Consolidation of multiple agencies into a new agency is not considered creation of an agency for this purpose. (Streamlining Government)
- Does it remove or give the government new power to prohibit or restrict activities in the free market? Examples may include licensing requirements and other restrictions on legal business practices. (Transparency/Free Markets)
- Is it hostile to the concepts set forth in the U.S. Constitution? Does it protect the idea of Federalism as set forth in the 10th Amendment? Does it restrict property, speech, gun or other constitutionally-recognized rights or freedoms? Does it adhere to the electoral system, balance of power, and checks and balances provided for in the Constitution? (Constitutional Structure)
- Is it supportive of or hostile to the Separation of Powers doctrine? (Separation of Powers)
- Does it have a major positive or negative impact on the overall tax burden? (Tax Burden)
- Does it hold government accountable by making services more accessible and/or preserve or improve quality at the same or a better price? Conversely, does it prevent such circumstances by favoring the interest of government employees over taxpayers? (Transparency & Efficiency)
- Does it reaffirm basic legal rights or otherwise protect citizens from judicial activism? (Separation of Powers)
- Does it enhance or restrict citizen input on the selection of judges? (Judicial Selection/Judicial Approval)
- Does it have a major impact on student-focused educational opportunities? (Student-Focused)
- Does it create student-focused school funding system that holds schools accountable for outcomes or does it perpetuate a system that produced unacceptable results? (School Funding)
- Does it restore spending to the Legislature’s appropriations process or does it remove spending authority from the Legislature’s appropriations process? (Legislative Process)
- Does it prevent agencies or individuals from obligating the state to actions or expenditures without Legislative approval or does it allow agencies or individuals to obligate the state to actions or expenditures without Legislative approval? (Legislative Process)
- Does it contract or expand government-provided health care? (Medicaid Expansion)
- Does it change tax policy for the improvement or detriment of economic growth and job creation? (Economy)
- Does it impact the ability of government employees to complete their work free from coerced political influence, exercise an individual right on issues related to terms of employment, collective bargaining, etc. (Employee Freedom)
- Does it have a major impact on private property rights? (Property Rights)
- Does it preserve, enhance, or diminish the integrity of the election process? (Electoral Integrity)
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.
- Does it redistribute income, or use tax policy or other incentives to reward specific interest groups, individual businesses, or industries with special favors or perks? Conversely, does it eliminate special favors and perks in the tax code or public policy? (Tax Preference)
- Does it perform a function that can and should be performed by the private sector, or restore functions to the private sector? (Privatization)
- Does it grow or shrink the regulatory scope of an agency? (Regulatory Scope)
- Does it add or remove a minor agency or licensing board? (Streamlining Government)
- Does it directly or indirectly create/reduce taxes, fees or other assessments? (Tax/Taxes/Fees)
- Does it increase or decrease control of the private sector through rules, regulation or statute? (Regulation)
- Does it increase or decrease long-term debt, or override or restore statutory or constitutional protections against long-term debt? (Debt)
- Does it give or reduce special benefits for government employees or elected officials? (Government Favoritism)
- Does it promote government transparency or does it restrict access to information that should be in the public domain? (Transparency)
- Does it change licensing provisions in ways that further restrict competition in the free market or does it relax regulations to encourage competition or otherwise provide for the functioning of free markets? (Licensing/Free Markets)
- Does it promote more efficient use of taxpayer funds or does it oppose or reduce government efficiency? (Efficiency)
- Does it give teachers, principals, school districts, higher education, or the Department of Education more flexibility to make student-focused decisions by relaxing or eliminating regulations or does it increase regulatory control? (Education)
- Does it prevent or allow government funds or operations from being used for political purposes? (Political Dues or Issues/Lobbying with Taxpayer Funds)
- Does it require school districts to make student-focused decisions related to student achievement or does it allow school districts to put other considerations ahead of student-focused achievement? (Education)
- Does it enhance or restrict private property rights? (Property Rights)
- Does it enhance or promote consumer-driven health care or does it make health care more expensive and/or less accessible? (Consumer-Driven Health Care)
- Does it encourage citizen engagement in state and local governmental decision making? (Citizen Engagement)
- Does it restore funding decisions to the Appropriations process or does it circumvent the Appropriations process? (Transparency)
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 Index
Each 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.