A Weekly Rundown of Important Activity in Topeka, from a Principled Perspective
“Dependency harms culture. People thrive the more they can be self-reliant.” 
- Wesley J. Smith in The War on Humans
The Facts of the Matter will be a feature in The Truth Report each week, highlighting important information, some of which is not always reported or emphasized in the mainstream press:
  • 82% of Kansans Want Schools to Stay Open. In a scientific poll conducted late in 2017, 82% of Kansans indicated that schools should remain open during school policy debates over the appropriate amount of funding for schools. (Source)

  • Kansas Ranks 38th in Sales Tax Burden. Kansas ranks 38th in the country for sales tax burden, with 1st place being the state with the least tax burden in the country. With a base sales tax of 6.5% and local sales taxes creeping up past 10% in some areas, there is increased discussion about efforts to at least reduce the sales tax on food. Kansas is one of only a handful of states that does not have any exemption or cap on food sales tax. (Source #1Source #2)

  • State Treasurer Can’t Stop Overpayments to Schools. According to the Sentinel, the Kansas State Treasurer’s Office looked into whether the state treasurer Jake LaTurner could refuse to issue school funding he knows is unlawful. The answer is no. (Source)
Have you heard our Kansas Truth Minute spots yet on airing on more than 30 radio stations across Kansas? We have three playing right now with more in the works. These are one-minute spots highlighting unique facts about our state – as well as facts about what’s happening in state government.

You can listen to the three playing now on our website:
News & Views is a weekly collection of relevant news items and editorials regarding what's going on in Topeka and around the State of Kansas.
Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning: Kansas school funding must obey the rule of law, regardless of how it’s been done in the past
Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning wrote another excellent editorial regarding the LPA Audit which found that KSDE implemented a change to the K-12 transportation formula without legislative authorization. Here is a key excerpt:

What we cannot condone is conduct that does not comply with laws that have been enacted and are in effect to guide our state government. In its most basic form, this is the rule of law. It is a principle that should take precedence over any individual, and in fact protects the rights of each person from any individuals or entities attempting to put themselves above the law.

In December, an audit discovered that the Kansas Department of Education, or KSDE, has been ignoring a statutory formula passed into law over 40 years ago. That law should guide how the department funds school transportation. But the KSDE has been using its own formula, which has resulted in an extra $45 million going to some of the most densely populated school districts in the state over the last five years.

This has strayed from this guiding principle of the rule of law. In essence, some KSDE officials’ argument is that it is somehow lawful not to follow the law simply because a former legislator, now deceased, had ordered that it should be violated many years ago.
Rep. Kristey Williams Two Part Column on School Finance

Part 1:  Click Here to Read
Part 2:   Click Here to Read

Rep. Kristey Williams wrote a two-part column for The Butler County Times-Gazette examining school finance issues, including the Gannon case currently being debated in the Kansas Legislature. Here are a couple key excerpts:

From Part 1:
The Gannon v. State of Kansas is the name of the court case that school districts use to sue you, the Kansas taxpayer, the past 9 years. 

The Kansas Constitution (Article 6, Section 6) states that the Legislature shall ‘make suitable provision for finance of educational interests of the State.’ The Constitutional wording ‘suitable provision’ in question was first added to our Constitution in 1966. 

Now we get to the gritty details, and vocabulary lesson, that only a lawyer could love (and profit from). Here is the key word in question: SUITABLE. The word ‘suitable’ has been defined by the Supreme Court to mean both ‘equitable and adequate.’ The definition and measurement for reaching what is ‘equitable and adequate’ has changed for the past decade. In essence, the Legislature has been given an impossible task in which the goalpost of ‘equitable and adequacy’ continually move with each ruling.

53 years since the word ‘suitable’ was added to our State Constitution, we find ourselves in litigation brought on by self-serving lawyers who have taken more than $6 million from Kansas taxpayers to line their own pockets.

From Part 2:  
Let’s go back to the four schools that were part of the original lawsuit. These schools are NOT currently using their maximum taxing authority. If these four districts needed more funds for teacher raises or classroom enhancements, the money is already available today – without any more lawsuit wins or increased State funding. These four schools would need only to increase their local property tax rates to the statutory maximum levels and be subject to a 30-day protest petition.

These districts are suing YOU instead. In essence, by not maximizing their local funding authority, their actions indicate they would prefer for YOU, everyone else in the State, to pay MORE for their schools rather than ask their local voters/patrons. 
Transparency Center: Follow the Kansas Legislature
Both the House and Senate have taken historic steps towards the promotion of open government. For the first time, you can view video streaming of both chambers via the Kansas Legislature YouTube page. In addition, many committees are now audio streamed. Finally, the Kansas Legislature website remains a great resource. Here are the relevant links:

YouTube Streaming:

On Wednesday, February 7th, Governor Jeff Colyer delivered a “State of the State”-like address to a joint session of the Kansas Legislature, in which he outlined his priorities for the session. In the address, he discussed his ideas and initiatives on a host of topics. You can read the speech by clicking here.

“We are a Pro Life State.”
Governor Colyer reaffirmed the dedication of his administration to protecting a culture of life, including his belief that no right to abortion exists under the Kansas Constitution. The Kansas Truth Caucus stands with the governor on this item, including being ready to act with a constitutional amendment to address this critical question. With so much tremendous progress being made towards making Kansans a state that upholds the sanctity of life, we simply must not turn back on this commitment.

“Transparency required of the Legislature should also be required for the Executive Branch.”
Governor Colyer also announced a series of initiatives to improve transparency in the executive branch, including requiring state workers to use government in e-mail in conducting state business, making the first 100 pages of any open records request free to the public, and the creation of a website that will list the location and time of all open meetings occurring within the executive branch. We applaud these changes that will make it easier for the public to follow the machinations of government.

“This must end now.”
On education, Governor Colyer read off a list of ten governors – including his own administration – under which school finance litigation has been pending in the courts. Legislators justifiably applauded loudly when he declared that this cycle of litigation must end now. A similar round of applause was given when the governor promised that schools would remain open – a promise that is codified in statute. It would be unlawful for the Kansas Supreme Court to close schools.

“We need funding to achieve the following goals.”
Throughout his address, Governor Colyer also outlined several ideas that will require additional spending of taxpayer resources by the legislature, including a phased in approach to education that would have the effect of attempting to comply with the court ruling with even more education spending.

While we appreciate the governor’s commitment not to increase the tax burden on Kansans, when you add in additional tens of millions of funding for infrastructure and social services, it is hard to envision the legislature holding the line on spending if it were to follow up on each of these initiatives.
On Thursday, February 8 th , Kansans for Life held its annual Valentine Banquet in Overland Park. The Valentine Banquet has become a true tradition, with hundreds of pro-life Kansans gathering to raise money for the pro-life cause in Kansas. 

This year’s guest speaker was Wesley J. Smith , Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. 

Smith is the author a number of books discussing the issues impacting our desire to maintain culture of life. He provided an excellent talk that talked about the encroaching culture of death, how some are attempting to redefine the very meaning of life, and how we must work together to fight it.

Many pro-life elected officials, including several members of the Kansas Truth Caucus, were in attendance and Governor Colyer addressed the gathering. In addition, the Kansas Truth Caucus was proud to sponsor a table at the event. 

First among our core principles, the Kansas Truth Caucus is dedicated to upholding the sanctity of life.
This week, the Senate adopted SR 1762, a Senate Resolution recognizing that pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms. Among the findings of fact in the resolution:

  • Pornography is creating a public health crisis and perpetuates a sexually toxic environment;
  • Pornography normalizes violence and abuse against women and children by treating women and children as objects, and often depicts rape and abuse as if they are harmless. Moreover, pornography equates violence towards women and children with sex, and equates pain with pleasure, which increases child sexual abuse and child pornography and the demand for sex trafficking and prostitution, according to a 2012 study published in The Protection Project Journal of Human Rights and Civil Society;
  • Efforts to prevent pornography exposure and addiction, to educate individuals and families concerning its harms, and to develop recovery programs must be addressed systematically;
  • Due to advances in technology and the universal availability of the internet, young children are exposed to pornography at an alarming rate, with 27 percent of millennials, aged 25 to 30, reporting that they first viewed pornography before puberty, based on a 2016 Barna Group Study;

You can read the full resolution by clicking here. The resolution was adopted on a Roll Call Vote of 35-4.

The Truth Caucus supports preserving the core institutions that have made our country and state so strong – especially families, churches, and communities. We understand if we lose our culture and our moral values, we will lose our country. We support protecting these values and oppose efforts to undermine them. 

SR 1762 was an important step in protecting our families and defending our culture.
This week, in an amendment to an otherwise non-controversial bill dealing with IT services, liberal Democratic Rep. Brett Parker tried to impose net neutrality in Kansas by forcing internet providers who do business with the state to adopt so-called “net neutrality” rules. 

Liberal legislators around the country are attempting to make an end run around the decision of the FCC, and this was their first attempt in Kansas. Thankfully, the amendment was soundly defeated by a wide margin, only garnering 43 votes.

Members of the Kansas Truth Caucus stood united against this attempt to impose regulations on the free market.
The Kansas Truth Caucus supports efforts to shine the light of day on the governmental process. We believe the public has a right to know how their elected officials are voting, the bills they are introducing, and their actions in committee and on the floor of each chamber. Additionally, we will support policies that promote accountability at all levels and branches of government.

Accordingly, several members of the Kansas Truth Caucus and other conservative legislators are championing efforts to increase transparency within the Kansas Legislature.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. John Whitmer carried HB 2562 ( click here for link to the bill), which would phase in both and audio (for 2019) and video streaming (in 2020) for legislative committees, as well as the floor of each chamber, as a requirement in law. While leadership in both chambers has implemented increased audio and video streaming this session, HB 2562 would ensure this remains a policy going forward.
In the Senate, Senator Mary Pilcher Cook led a coalition of several Senators to introduce two bills:

SB 392 ( Click here for link to the bill) – This bill would ensure committee minutes contain the names of persons, agencies or organizations that introduce a bill in committee. SB 392 would allow anyone to request a bill introduction, in contrast to SB 350, which requires a state legislator to introduce a bill, taking away the ability of the public to have input in the process of bill introductions.

SB 393 ( Click here for link to the bill) – This bill would require all committee motions and votes to be recorded in the minutes, including how each member of the committee voted. Currently, votes are only recorded upon the request of the legislator. Committees are the stage where many games are played, because a legislator can claim they are against a bill yet vote in favor of passing the legislation out of committee. The people have a right to know how their legislators are voting at every stage.

Individual members of the Kansas Truth Caucus have slightly varying views on how best to implement increased transparency, and we all agree that transparency is a must, so the public can follow our work. The above efforts indicate those principles aren’t just words, but actions. 
From time to time, the Truth Report will have a “Liberal Legislation Watch," where we will highlight legislation that would undermine conservative principles by implementing liberal policies.
Gutting Welfare Reform
HB 2666 was introduced by Rep. Ousley (D- Merriam) and if passed would revert Kansas back to the failed policies of the Sebelius-era. HB 2666 would remove all sanctions for non-compliance with the welfare work programs and undo the HOPE Act’s lifetime limit reform.

Expanding ObamaCare
On Wednesday, February 14th the Senate Health and Human Services committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Medicaid expansion. SB 38 would expand the Medicaid program to provide taxpayer-funded coverage to able-bodied adults.
Every week, the Truth Report will have a “Wallet Watch," where we examine efforts to remove money from the wallets of hard-working Kansans.  
Funding transportation is certainly an important part of the duties of the Kansas Legislature. Doing so responsibly is the key.

This week, the Kansas Senate adopted SB 285, which creates the legislative transportation task force, which is tasked with studying Kansas’ transportation system and making recommendations regarding the future of the system over the next ten years, including funding. It will produce a report to the legislature. You can learn about the legislation establishing the task force, including who will have the ability to appoint members to it, by clicking here. The link includes a PDF of the bill and the supplemental report describing its contents.

Assuming SB 285 is enacted, the Kansas Truth Caucus stands ready to follow the progress of the task force and evaluating its recommendations carefully to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.