A Weekly Rundown of Important Activity in Topeka, from a Principled Perspective
“The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the constitutions of the several states, and the organic laws of the territories all alike propose to protect the people in the exercise of their God-given rights. Not one of them pretends to bestow rights.”
- Susan B. Anthony (Her birthday was February 15th!)
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:

  • Kansas growth index records big jump. The Kansas Rural Mainstreet Index for February jumped to 51.1 from 43.1 the previous month. The new-hiring section of the index rocketed to 51.5 this month after settling at 43.6 in January. (Source)

  • Aviation Day Expands in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Transportation Division of Aviation, in partnership with the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education (KCAE) will hold their 4th annual Aviation Day event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 1. (Source)

  • So What’s Going on with the Turnpike Changes? People traveling on the Kansas Turnpike may be wondering what all the construction is about at the different gates. The Kansas Turnpike Authority is implementing some changes to making commuting faster and safer. (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.
Renee Erickson Provides Clarity on Education Funding
Written in 2016, this editorial is quite relevant for today’s debate...

One of the joys of being an educator is seeing that aha moment of understanding. I hope Kansans can have a moment of clarity on education funding.

K-12 funding is at an all-time high with increases every year since 2011 (KSDE). That information is readily available to anyone willing to know. For 2017, K-12 receives $4 billion from the state and another $2 billion federal and local.

The Court did not rule $4 billion wasn't enough. It ruled on how a portion of the money is divided between districts. To understand equalization, read Rep. Rhoades' April blog.

Kansas far outspends the U.S. average, but an unelected Court, selected by a small group of undisclosed lawyers, keeps threatening chaos and rewarding lawyers suing the state.

School lawsuits have been a huge money maker for the same lawyers for over a decade.

This latest shakedown wouldn't even go to classrooms, but to lawyers and local municipalities, and not necessarily to poorer counties. Does that sound equitable?

Usual responses:

"Until you've taught in the classroom..." I have. For a combined 51 years, my husband and I have been public school teachers and principals.

"KPERS." KSDE's Dale Dennis is on record that KPERS has gone directly to schools since 2005. (He also acknowledged Special Ed funding has gone directly to schools for a decade.) Even excluding KPERS, education funding has increased.

"Inflation." K-12 state funding has exceeded inflation by tens of millions. (KSDE; Consumer Price Index)

"Three-legged stool." Before 2014, 20 mills of state aid were credited as local. State funding was even higher than recorded, and it still went up. Of the three legs, the state pays much more than the other two.

"BSAPP." The old funding formula used Base State Aid Per Pupil multiplied by numerous weightings for total state funding. When people name drop BSAPP now, they fail to mention the weightings. Bottom line: state funding to K-12
has increased.

"Districts are spending more." That's true. But how hard is it to spend more? In 2010, K-12's cash reserve was $705 million. By 2015, it was $853 million. Their savings grew. Did yours?

"Then, why does our district keep cutting teachers and programs?" Now, there's a question. And why do they always cut where it hurts most?

As a seven-year school board member for USD 373 and principal in USD 259, I've seen many poor spending decisions.

Recently, USD 373 circulated a letter on its spending, but failed to mention the $1 million health insurance mistake it made last year or the $3,000 vases (each) purchased years ago or the administrative building some dub the Taj Mahal.

USD 373's superintendent ranks 45th in Kansas in overall pay, while its teachers rank 128th (KSDE).

Is that equitable?

Is it equitable teachers are told there's no money for supplies, but USD 373 spent $75,000 this year on architects to develop vision/mission statements for new construction?

Is it equitable board members and district office administrators travel at taxpayer expense throughout the U.S. while cutting educational field trips for students?

Is it equitable superintendents and others use school time to push liberal politics? I know personally; conservatives are pressured to stay quiet.
I could go on, and I am willing to, until every open-minded Kansan gets it and has their own aha moment.

Our schools have become platforms for liberals to push their own agendas, and until parents and teachers wake up, a liberal Court and a few lawyers will keep pushing, even if the money doesn't go to teachers or classrooms.

When will we learn?

True change will only occur when we focus on issues that directly impact student achievement and equality in our districts.

Renee Erickson

When Renee Erickson wrote this, she was a School Board Member in USD 373 and Principal of Brooks Middle School in USD 259.
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:

Truth Caucus Hosts Table at the Republican Convention in Wichita
The Kansas Truth Caucus was proud to host a table at the Kansas Republican Convention this past weekend in Wichita, Kansas. Thank you to the many Kansans who came by our booth and learned about who we are and the principles we stand for.

If you missed us, look for our Statement of Principled Priorities on our website in an e-blast later this week!
Gov. Colyer Appoints Tracey Mann As 50th Lieutenant Governor
This week, Governor Jeff Colyer selected Tracey Mann as the 50th Lt. Governor of Kansas.

The appointment requires no Senate confirmation. Lt Governor Mann was sworn in on Wednesday.

You can read Lt. Governor Mann’s biography by clicking here.

Accountability: Creating an Education Inspector General
There has been a great deal of attention given to the unauthorized allocation of funds by the Kansas Department of Education. In order to prevent this from happening in the future and provide greater accountability into how our education tax dollars are spent Senators Mary Pilcher Cook and Ty Masterson introduced legislation that would establish the Education Inspector General. Their offices issued the following press release:

Senators Introduce Bill Creating Education Inspector General Senators

Senators Ty Masterson and Mary Pilcher Cook introduced legislation today creating an Education Inspector General, who would be appointed by the State Treasurer and confirmed by the State Senate. One of the primary duties of the inspector general would be to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent in accordance with state law.

"With over half of the state budget dedicated for K-12 education, it is essential the public can trust that those dollars are being spent according to the law," said Masterson, Chair of the Kansas Truth Caucus.

The Education Inspector General would operate under the direction of the State Treasurer, free from political influence, with the ability to audit, investigate and give performance reviews from a neutral perspective.

Establishment of an Education Inspector General would provide increased accountability, integrity, and oversight of elementary and secondary public education spending and ensure the proper implementation and execution of school finance laws.

"Kansans have a right to expect the billions they spend on education to be handled in a manner that reflects their will, not the whims of bureaucrats," said Pilcher Cook. "This measure will ensure transparency and accountability. If our school finance system is to be trusted, it must be enacted according to state law and it should not be under the purview of only one person."

The bill was introduced in the Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Senate Federal & State Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Convention of States
This week, several dozen Kansans who believe strongly in the notion that the federal government is exceeding it’s authority under the United States Constitution, descended on Topeka and packed the hearing room in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. 
SCR 1611 would call for a “convention of states” under Article V of the United States Constitution. 

In order for a convention to be called, 2/3 of the states – or 32 would be required to pass similar resolutions. Currently, the Convention of States effort has been officially been called by 12 states, passed one chamber in 9 additional states, and is pending before several other legislatures around the country, including here in Kansas. Kansas is unique because we are one of two states that require a 2/3 majority of each chamber for an Article V Constitution Convention to be called.

Under the language being promoted by the Convention of States organization, this convention would be limited in scope - only proposing amendments to the Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.

Once a Convention of States is called by 32 states, it would take 26 states participating in the convention (one vote per state) to send any proposed amendment to the states for ratification. To be ratified, any amendment would require 38 states to be adopted, a very high bar. 

As Sen. Masterson pointed out in committee, that would require a broad level of support in the public in order to p ass – meaning the risk of poor amendments being adopted is exceedingly low.

You can learn more about the Convention of States effort by clicking here. You can read the legislation by clicking here.

Kansas Highways Rank 2nd Nationally
If you read media reports, some would lead you to believe that Kansas roads are falling apart. Not so, according to this study by the Reason Foundation . According to their Annual Highway Report, Kansas ranks 2nd overall in the nation in highway performance and cost-effectiveness. 

Within the rankings, Kansas’s best rankings are rural arterial pavement condition (6th), deficient bridges (6th) and rural interstate pavement condition (10th). Kansas’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 27th largest system.
Right to Shop Bill Earns Hearing in House
In the legislature, there are two bills that would create a “right to shop” – one in the Senate introduced by Sens. Mary Pilcher-Cook and Gene Suellentrop, and HB 2575, introduced by Rep. Abe Rafie. The latter had a hearing in the House Health & Human Services Committee this past week.

Here is a good article in the Sentinel about the House bill and the overall issue.  Here is a page containing great information on the issue from FGA.

FGA poses this question, “Why should an infusion treatment for a chronically ill patient cost $28,000 per treatment in one building, but cost $14,000 down the street? Why do patients have to pay so much more simply based on where they park their cars? And why are patients left in the dark about these price differences? Insurance premiums and health care costs continue to rise every year. Deductibles and copays continue to rise every year. Patients and small businesses are paying more - but are getting less. It is time to protect patients and drive down costs with the Right to Shop.”

That is the essence of the legislation offered in the Kansas Legislature. The Right to Shop legislation offers consumers real health care freedom by giving them control over their own health care costs. The legislation rewards consumers who shop for health care with real savings. This is accomplished by introducing market forces to lower costs and increase patient options.

Under the status quo, patients don’t know the cost of the health care they are receiving upfront. As a result, they end up paying higher out-of-pocket costs than is necessary. With health care costs increasing and choices among providers decreasing for factors unrelated to quality of care, patients often are locked into a particular provider pathway.

When Right to Shop is enacted, insurers and health care providers make available price information upfront. Armed with the tools they need to shop in addition to being rewarded for doing so, patients are free to access high quality, lower-cost medical care.

Patients are the ultimate health care consumer.   The Kansas Truth Caucus supports efforts to expand health care freedom.  

Senator Suellentrop Pushes for KPERS Reform
This week, the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee held a hearing on SB 395, a bill introduced at the request of Sen. Gene Suellentrop. SB 395, as introduced, would add a maximum cap on the final average salary for members hired on or after July 1, 2018 and for existing members who have a participating service under a contract entered into with an affiliated employer on or after April 1, 2018. 

The bill does not cap salary, only the amount which can be counted for KPERS, which is set to be equal to the Governor’s salary of $99,636. Currently, there are 2,586 KPERS members who exceed the cap. While just a fraction of the total KPERS members, it is noteworthy for the taxpayer. While the legislation looks forward and is not retroactive, that is an important statistic and demonstrates evidence for possible reforms.

It is important to note that the salary cap for KPERS benefits will adjust upward over time, indexed to the rate increases for our federal social security system.

Look for more information on this legislation in future editions of the Truth Report.
House Transportation Committee Advances “Choose Life” License Plate Bill
HB 2678, drafted by Rep. Trevor Jacobs, would create a “Choose Life” custom license plate in Kansas. This week, it had a hearing in the House Transportation Committee, which then forwarded it to the House floor inside HB 2599, a bill creating a similar plate for the Special Olympics. The logo on the plate was designed by Rep. Jacobs’ daughter!
Here is a photo from the committee hearing:
Rep. Trevor Jacobs with Eric Teetsel (Family Policy Alliance of KS, Barbara Saldivar (CWA), Michelle Schroeder (CWA) and Linda Highland (CWA).
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 held 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.  
Sales taxes have gone up. Income taxes have gone up. But, to some legislators, that’s not enough – now they want to go increase property taxes, too.

According to this report in the Lawrence Journal World, a “large property tax increase may be on the table as part of school finance fix in Kansas.” The article goes further:

Homeowners and businesses in Kansas may soon be asked to pay significantly higher property taxes in the future as part of any state plan to pay for a court-mandated increase in K-12 education spending.

Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, who chairs the House Taxation Committee, said recently that he intended to make that part of the discussion in the coming weeks as lawmakers begin working in earnest to find ways to pay for what could be a $600 million increase in annual aid to public schools.

"The reason for property is, we had a meaningful change in income tax in 2017, a meaningful change in sales tax in 2015, and the one thing we did not discuss in committee last year was property tax," Johnson said in a recent interview.

The Kansas Truth Caucus stands firmly against further tax increases upon Kansas citizens.