October 22, 2014

Organization ranks state pols on freedom index

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
Sen. Pat Apple voted more often for freedom than Sen. Julia Lynn; and Rep. Bill Sutton cast votes more often for liberty than Rep. Willie Dove, according to Kansas Policy Institute’s Freedom Index.
The index tracked bills KPI believes were supportive of or detracting from economic and education liberty during the 2013 legislative session. The organization attached positive or negative scores to specific pieces of legislation and scored legislators based on how they voted.
For example, representatives who voted for House Bill 2012, a bill that would require regular legislative review of exemptions to the state’s open record laws, received negative-1 score. Senate Bill 72 would exempt health clubs from sales taxes. Legislators who voted for SB 72 received a negative points.
“I heard a number of people who supported that say they wanted to level the playing field, because non-profits like YMCA are exempt, but for-profits weren’t,” Trabert said. “(The bill) just shifted the tax burden to everyone else. The cost of government didn’t go down. Everyone else has to pay a little higher tax in the long run.”
House members were scored based on 33 votes, with a perfect, or highest available score of 46. The lowest possible score is negative-46.
Four House members, including Reps. Pete DeGraaf, Amanda Grosserode, Jim Howell, and Josh Powell earned scores of 36.
In comparison, Rep. Bill Sutton, who represents Gardner and Edgerton, earned a 26. Rep. Willie Dove, who represents Gardner Lake and Bonner Springs, earned a 16.
Senate members were scored based on 31votes worth 49 points. Sen. Apple earned a 27, while Sen. Julia Lynn earned a 26.
Dave Trabert, president of KPI, said the purpose of the index is to inform the public about broad economic and education freedom issues.
“An informed citizenry is an essential element of maintaining a free society,” he said in a press release. “Having a deep 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.”
Although the index is non-partisan analysis not intended to endorse or oppose any candidate, Democrats typically scored lower than Republicans.  Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, scored dead last with a negative-37 points in the Senate, while Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, scored last in the House with a score of negative-28.
This is the second year KPI has scored legislators on its freedom index. Last year’s scorecard tracked only economic issues, but this year’s index includes votes on educational freedom as well, Trabert said.
Legislators received positive scores for voting for legislation Trabert said will create a more student-focused public education system. This year’s index also draws attention to pending legislation. Although legislators aren’t graded on bills they haven’t yet voted on, the index includes a list of pending legislation that may be scored in the future.
The index can be viewed online at LINK.

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