A Weekly Rundown of Important Activity in Topeka, from a Principled Perspective
WEEK 10 - MARCH 18, 2018
“Education spending will be most effective if it relies on parental choice & private initiative -- the building blocks of success throughout our society.” 
- Milton Friedman
The Facts of the Matter is a feature in The Truth Report each week, highlighting important information, some of which is not always reported or emphasized in the mainstream press:

  • The Nation Spends Almost One Trillion on Education Collectively. During 2016, federal, state, and local governments in the U.S. spent $922 billion on education. This amounts to 5.0% of the U.S. gross domestic product, 15% of government current expenditures, and $7,330 for every household in the U.S. These numbers, however, do not include land purchases for schools or other facilities, some of the costs for durable items like buildings or computers, and unfunded liabilities of post-employment non-pension benefits like health insurance. (Source)

  • School Choice Programs are Common Across America. As of 2016, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has identified 61 school choice programs in 31 states and the District of Columbia. (Source 1 and Source 2)

  • Restricted speech becoming more common across college campuses. The issue of free speech is a contested topic that has grabbed the attention of everyone from school administrators to the United States Attorney General. In fact, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), just under one-third (32.3 percent) of surveyed institutions received FIRE’s lowest, red light rating for maintaining speech codes that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech. (Source 1, Source 2)
Have you heard our Kansas Truth Minute spots yet on airing on more than 30 radio stations across Kansas? We have six 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.
Daily Oklahoman Editorial Board: Oklahoma needs more, not fewer agencies helping children

This upcoming week, the House and Senate Federal and State Committee Affairs Committee will hold hearings on HB 2687 and SB 401, bills protecting faith-based adoption agencies. Similar legislation is making its way through the Oklahoma legislature, and recently, the Editorial Board issued an editorial regarding the matter.  We are sharing it because it is relevant to the upcoming debate in Kansas.

Key Excerpt:
Oklahoma's Catholic bishops and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma have voiced support for SB 1140. They note that in some states where legal protections are not provided to faith-based private providers, such as Massachusetts, Illinois and California, faith-based agencies have been forced to close after regulations mandated changes to their adoption criteria in violation of the groups' religious principles.

Fewer providers means fewer children being placed in safe foster homes and fewer children being adopted. That's a high price to pay to allow some parties to engage in empty virtue-signaling.

State Legislatures Have A Duty To Protect Free Speech At Public Universities

This past week, the Kansas Senate fell one vote short of enacting protections for First Amendment rights on college campuses. This editorial discusses why state legislatures have a duty to protect free speech. 

Key Excerpt:
The answers to these questions are straightforward: The First Amendment does not enforce itself. Yes, senior administrators are responsible for upholding the First Amendment at public colleges and universities. Yet the existence of unconstitutional speech codes and of protesters’ “shout-downs” of invited campus speakers testifies to the fact that some of these institutions and administrators need additional support in their efforts to protect the conditions of teaching and learning.
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:

Taylor Education Study Revealed – More Questions than Answers
On Friday afternoon, WestEd, through Dr. Lori Taylor and others, released its long-anticipated study entitled, “Estimating the Costs Associated with Reaching Student Achievement Expectations for Kansas Public Education Students.” Lawyers for both the House and Senate were present at the committee meeting at which the study was released to answer questions about the study, while Dr. Taylor will be in Topeka next week. 

This study was originally ordered by legislative leadership.  Here is an article discussing the matter around the time legislative leadership ordered the study.
The report can be viewed by clicking here .

Unfortunately, the report contains important errors, particularly in the tables discussing specific school district enrollment figures. For instance, the Olathe School District was shown as only having 302 students, while Oberlin was shown having 29,029. While those two instances may be flipped, there were other errors as well, and the lawyers couldn’t guarantee the accuracy of the data in those charts. A corrected version will be available early next week.

During the presentation, the lawyers indicated it was important to understand that the study was not based upon the current formula, but a new formula it revealed over the course of the report.

The extensive report is being reviewed over the weekend by legislators, the media, and the public at-large. However, upon initial inspection, most alarming to many was the level of spending the report seemed to call for – in one scenario, the report seems to call for $2.1 billion in additional spending, on an annual basis, by the end of a five-year period, a staggering 44% increase over what the report said we are currently spending. 

The scenario with the smallest increase called for almost $500 million more in annual spending by the end of the five-year period.

On Friday evening, the Kansas Truth Caucus issued the following initial response:

“The highly anticipated release of the school finance cost study has produced more questions than answers. Fundamental errors in one of the study’s appendices call into question the validity of the recommendation, as well as the credibility of the study itself. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that a government study recommended more government spending. Taxpayers are rarely, if ever, represented when their hard-earned money is being divvied up by out-of-state consultants. Throwing outrageous amounts of money into a failing system does not help our students who deserve an educational system that meets their individual needs.”
Liberal Legislation Watch: Democrats Strike Out in Push for Medicaid Expansion
From time to time, the Truth Report contains a "Liberal Legislation Watch," where we will highlight legislation that would undermine conservative principles by implementing liberal policies.
They won’t give up, even when their efforts are against the rules.

Earlier this week, Democrats in the Kansas House again attempted to amend Medicaid Expansion onto a banking bill where it was not germane to do so. On March 14, Minority Leader Jim Ward made three attempts to amend SB 335 with Medicaid Expansion related amendments.

The first attempt would have been an amendment expanding ObamaCare via the Medicaid program. The germaneness of that amendment was challenged by Rep. Randy Powell, and the Rules Committee indicated it was not germane. That ruling was challenged but the decision was upheld by a vote of 77-45. Strike one.

Next, Ward tried to amend the bill to eliminate work requirements and lifetime benefit caps for KanCare recipients. This was also challenged as not germane and again, the Rules Committee ruled that it was not. Strike two.

Finally, Ward offered a third amendment to give Governor Jeff Colyer the sole authority to expand Medicaid, removing that authority from the legislature. That amendment died on a voice vote. Strike three.

Three strikes and Ward was out, and the Kansas taxpayers were saved from what is still a bad idea, as demonstrated in this editorial by Jeff Glendening .
First Amendment Watch: Senate Falls One Vote Short of Protecting Free Speech Rights on College Campuses
On Wednesday, Senator Ty Masterson carried SB 340, the Campus Free Speech Protection Act. Throughout the country, free speech rights are under assault on college campuses through a variety of means, such as free speech codes , restricting free speech to tiny “free speech zones” , exorbitant "security" fees , or even uninviting speakers . If that doesn’t work, those opposed to the speech will try to intimidate the speaker into not coming or even disrupt the speech, rather than simply countering it with speech of their own.

The claims of some that these things don’t happen fly in the face of facts, such as those outlined in this editorial by Cathy Young. Another editorial by Tom Lindsay discusses why legislatures have a duty to protect free speech rights on college campuses . Many states have responded, including Florida, just this month . This is the goal of the Campus Free Speech Protection Act.

Unfortunately, during the debate on Wednesday, opponents (mostly Democrats but also some Republicans) of amplifying free speech rights under the First Amendment made several “red herring” style arguments to gin up opposition to the bill. One of their complaints was that faculty should have the same rights as students, ignoring the fact that faculty are employees of the university, under contract to teach. While university faculty certainly have broad free speech rights under the 1 st Amendment, universities (as employers) have the right to ensure their first duty (to teach) is being done in a way reflective of their respective institutional values and mission.

Ultimately, the bill failed narrowly on a 20-20 tie vote (21 votes were needed for passage). This means that the Kansas Senate sent a message to college students across Kansas that their free speech rights will, unfortunately, not be protected.

As legislators have demonstrated in both Congress and the Kansas Legislature, the best way to counter speech you don’t like is via speech you do like, not by shouting or shutting down those you disagree with. While there is room for reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, what we have seen on college campuses is a threat to free speech, which is at the heart of the First Amendment.
Second Amendment Watch: Senate Passes Conceal Carry Reciprocity, Withstands Barrage of Democratic Amendments 
Not satisfied with their undermining of the First Amendment, the same day the Campus Free Speech Protection Act was defeated, Democrats then turned to their favorite target – the Second Amendment. While the Second Amendment clearly states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, that isn’t stopping liberal efforts to do so. 

On Thursday, this came via repeated attempts to amend HB 2042, the conceal carry reciprocity bill. This bill would require the state to recognize conceal carry licenses issued by other states to individuals who are not Kansas residents (and vice-versa). This bill was a common-sense protection of Second Amendment rights and was carried on the floor by Sen. Ty Masterson.

For four hours, Senator Masterson and other Second Amendment supporters in the Senate successfully withstood all attempts by Democrats and a handful of the most liberal Republican Senators to undermine Second Amendment rights. This included an attempt to repeal “constitutional carry”, an attempt to repeal “campus carry”, an attempt to raise the age for purchasing a rifle to 21, an attempt to prohibit bump stocks, and an attempt to institute a “red flag” law that did not include due process rights.
Each time, their attempts failed – by varying margins. A couple interesting highlights of the debate:

  • During the debate over the attempt to raise the age for purchasing a rifle to 21, Senator Barbara Bollier tried to make the argument that the brain development of 18-20 year-olds made it inappropriate for them to have a rifle, even though they can vote and serve in the military. Sen. Masterson responded, “We’re getting way off topic talking about cerebral cortexes.”

  • At one point during the four-hour debate, Sen. Masterson had the floor with the ability to close the debate, but Democrats had more amendments. To allow a full debate over the issue, Sen. Masterson yielded the floor for several more amendments.

  • In that same portion of the debate, Sen. Richard Hilderbrand argued that it was inappropriate to not allow those 18-20 to carry a rifle, because they can vote and serve in the military. Sen. Holland countered that we restrict the right of such individuals to drink. However, Sen. Hilderbrand pointed out that there is a right to bear arms in the Second Amendment, but there is no right to drink anywhere in the Constitution. This time, Sen. Bollier attempted to claim there was a “Constitutional right to alcohol” in the Twenty-first Amendment, but that is incorrect. The Twenty-first Amendment merely repealed the federal prohibition on the sale, transportation, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors. In fact, Section 2 of that amendment essentially provides states complete control over alcohol laws. We’ve seen that play out here in Kansas, where alcohol laws were strict and have since been somewhat loosened.

  • Sen. Masterson emphasized he understood the emotions of the debate, but there are different solutions to the problem. As quoted in this article, “What really hurts me when we get in these debates,” he said, “is when we say things like, ‘If we don’t do it this way, my way, we will be held in extreme shame,’ or we fail our children, or other ways of referencing shame. ... We all want to save lives. We all want to protect our kids. We just have a very strong disagreement on what we believe is the solution.”

In the end, HB 2042 passed cleanly, 25-15. For a record of how Senators voted on particular amendments, please view the Senate Journal from Thursday . It now heads to conference with the House, whose version included two amendments. 
Senate Education Committee Holds Hearing on Education Inspector General Bill
The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on Thursday afternoon on the bill creating an Education Inspector General, authored by Senators Ty Masterson and Mary Pilcher Cook. 

Both Sen. Masterson and Sen. Pilcher Cook provided testimony in favor of the legislation (which you can read below), as did Kurt Knutson, the founder of Freedom Bank and a member of the State Banking Board. Mr. Knutson has been highly involved in grassroots efforts to support the Blue Valley School District. You can read Mr. Knutson’s testimony by clicking here .

Sen. Pilcher Cook Testimony on Education Inspector General
Chairman Baumgardner and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of  SB 424 , a measure that would create the position of Education Inspector General. 
This legislation will give Kansas citizens the assurance that their K-12 education tax dollars are being distributed according to state law.  As we have recently become aware, a Legislative Post Audit study discovered the Kansas Department of Education misappropriated up to $400 million in funds for education for over 30 to 45 years, revealing that the Kansas Legislature, for far too long, has not had proper accountability and transparency measures in place for over fifty percent of the state budget. This must be corrected to ensure there is integrity in the education funding system.
The education inspector general would be appointed by the state treasurer’s office, responsible for writing checks to distribute state funds, including dollars for education. The person would have the knowledge, skills, abilities and experience to conduct audits or investigations. The complex education finance formula would then have oversight by two individuals – one from the State Board of Education and another from the State Treasurer’s office. An education inspector general, coming from an independent government agency, would instill accountability back into the system.
The bill’s language was copied from the Medicaid Inspector General statute, but instead of the appointment being made by the attorney general’s office, which is mostly concerned with fraud, the appointment would be made by the state treasurer’s office, which is concerned with the state’s finances. The appointment would require confirmation by the State Senate.
The short-term outcome regarding the unlawful allocation of funds remains to be a serious consideration. But in addition, it is essential this situation not be allowed to happen again.  It is the duty of the Legislature to assure Kansas taxpayers that the billions of dollars they spend for education funds is being spent according to their will established in state law.  This is a needed measure that will insert transparency and accountability into the system.  If our school finance system is to be trusted, it must not be under the purview of only one person.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify for this bill. I strongly urge your support.
Sen. Masterson Testimony on Education Inspector General
Chairman Baumgardner and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of SB 424 , a measure that would create the position of Education Inspector General.

The core of what we do here in Topeka is pass laws, most particularly an annual budget which allocates billions of taxpayer dollars to various programs. Over half of our budget goes to one thing – K-12 education. If we are to have any credibility in anything we do here, the citizens of Kansas simply must have confidence that we are allocating their dollars according to the laws their representatives enact. These allocations simply cannot be subject to the individual whims of bureaucrats or individual legislators based on conversations they may or may not have had. They must be made according to law.

This is particularly important regarding education. The school finance formula is notoriously complicated, so complicated that many believe only one man knows the fine details or even precisely how each part works.

This complexity and the importance of school finance calls for an extra layer of accountability, a position solely dedicated to ensuring education tax dollars are lawfully spent. In this era of calls for increased transparency, now is the time to take decisive action. This is the essence behind the Education Inspector General we are proposing in this legislation. By being appointed by the State Treasurer and not the Governor or the Legislature, it ensures there is a separation that will keep the position from being politicized and instead focus it on the singular, yet critical task of ensuring accountability over these critical expenditures.

In closing, when we campaign before the voters, we often talk about finding solutions to problems. If we are ever going to turn that rhetoric into reality, then we need to pass legislation like this. It’s a narrowly crafted solution to a clearly identified problem regarding over half the state budget. Doing nothing and pretending like it didn’t happen should not be options. This legislation addresses the matter in a common-sense, practical way that will help restore confidence in this critical area of government.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify and I urge you to support of this bill.  
Adoption Protection Bill Hearings This Week
House and Senate Federal and State Affairs committees will be holding hearings on HB 2687 and HB 401 on Tuesday, March 20 th. The bills simply ensure that faith-based adoption providers are allowed to continue to operate in accordance to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Similar legislation recently was passed by the Oklahoma Senate, and the need for it was discussed in the Daily Oklahoman editorial featured earlier in this Truth Report.

The House hearing is at 9:00 a.m. in Room 346-S. The Senate hearing is at 10:30 a.m. in Room 144-S.
Every week, the Truth Report contains a “Wallet Watch," where we examine efforts to remove money from the wallets of hard-working Kansans.  
This week, the House Taxation Committee held a hearing on legislation to more than double the state’s tax on tobacco products . HB 2231 would raise cigarette taxes by $1.50 per pack (currently stands at $1.29 per pack) and boost rates on other tobacco products. According to the Fiscal Note, the bill would also increase the tobacco products tax to 65.0 percent of the wholesale price (from 10.0 percent). The bill would establish an inventory tax for all cigarette and tobacco products on hand as of July 1, 2017, which would be $1.50 per pack for cigarettes and would be due on October 31, 2017. The inventory tax would be 55.0 percent of the wholesale sales price for tobacco products on hand as of July 1, 2017 and the inventory tax would be due on July 31, 2017.

The first $5.0 million in cigarette and tobacco products tax revenue collected each year would be deposited in the Cigarette and Tobacco Cessation Fund, which the bill creates and would be administered by KDHE.