Our official vote count is here. We have included just a fraction of the bills the Kansas Legislature worked in this and previous years, and then only the ones where they actually took votes. So while bills to consolidate school districts or criminalizing sex education are not represented, because, thankfully, they never actually got to the voting stage, we do cover our core issues of strong public schools, good government, and fiscal sanity.
When we began this year's vote count process, we identified over a dozen key votes from this year and last year, and a few standout bills from even earlier, like the original 2012 tax cut bill that has put us in this mess. That's a lot of bills for one document, so we pared them down to a simple handful that best represent MainStream's stance on the issues prevalent in this election season. These are the bills we used to compile our vote count numbers.
Fiscal Sanity: We considered both HB 2117, the original 2012 tax cut bill, and HB 2109, last year's budget bill that raised sales taxes to try and cover the revenue gap. There are still many legislators who were present in 2012 to vote on the original cuts, and many of those people are running away from that vote this year. We wanted to hold them accountable. But we also wanted to understand the position of those new to the legislature since then. Last year's budget vote, made under duress at the end of a spectacularly long session, was nevertheless an opportunity to have repealed some of the those cuts made in 2012. Instead, they chose to impose an enormous increase in sales taxes to try and float the state. It didn't work, as we now know.
Public Education: With so many attacks on public education, it was difficult to narrow down our choice of bills. Many of the attacks never actually received a vote, they died in committee or were beat back in other ways. We chose to explore the votes on HB 2506, which first created the tax-credit scholarships, whereby corporations could receive 70% of their "gift" back as tax credits. That money, 70% of which would now be taxpayer funds, would be used to put public school students into unaccredited, private and parochial schools. The second bill we chose to list was HB 2292, the failed attempt to remove Kansas' College and Career Ready academic standards (part of the Common Core state-led initiative). Led by public school naysayers, this effort was turned away by legislators who understand the need for strong academic standards, and could look past the inflamed rhetoric aimed at confusing Kansas parents.
Judicial Independence: There is likely no more important issue on the ballot this year than the retention of Supreme Court Justices. In the legislature, HCR 5005 was debated, and would have eliminated Kansas' long standing system of merit selection for Justices. Instead, the Governor would have appointed a candidate for the position. With that effort defeated, his next opportunity to convert the Courts to his cause is to eliminate the individuals who sit on the bench, hoping to replace them via the merit system.
Church and State: MainStream's founding issue, the separation of church and state is fundamental to much of what Governor Brownback and his allies fight against. They would impose their religious morality on all Kansans, regardless of their beliefs, and have often looked to codify that morality as law. This year, SB 175 was passed, allowing college student groups to limit their memberships based on "strongly held beliefs," while still receiving state funding. Those who opposed this bill were protecting the rights of everyone to be free of discrimination.
Health Care: There has not been much actual legislation on Health Care this year, as Brownback's allies steadfastly refuse to hold hearings (much less allow any vote) on expansion of Medicaid. However, in 2014, the legislature passed HB 2553, joining the "Health Care compact" in asking the Federal government be exempted from the Affordable Care Act. Instead, they would like to manage Medicare funds at the state level. The mess that is KanCare (Kansas's state-managed Medicaid service) give little confidence that they would not botch Medicare if given the chance.
Gun Safety: Finally, we chose to look at SB 45, the law that allows any Kansan to carry a loaded, hidden firearm, without even needing a license to do so. This is the same bill that will allow concealed carry on college campuses, a measure that has been flatly rejected by students and staff at all the Regents institutions in the state.
Take a look at the scorecards below, and share them with your friends and family.
We cannot change the direction of the state if we don't all pitch in. It is time to step up and do more than vote. Make a difference.