2019 Voting Scorecard

Every year, MainStream tracks legislation and voting in the Kansas Legislature. And every year, we choose a few of the most important votes, and score legislators on whether they voted with or against MainStream's stated positions. Our voting scorecard for 2019 is here, with scores for 2019, and lifetime scores as well.

There's a lot of information that goes into this exercise. And, of course, some of the results are a little nuanced. Some are not. Let us give you a little explanation.

What votes did you score?

When we started 2019, we thought three legislative areas would be among the most important: taxes, education finance, and Medicaid expansion. We were right, and all three of those are represented in this scorecard. We also included votes on women's reproductive health, and gun safety.

Every year we select a few model votes, in an effort to present an accurate view of where legislators stand on the issues. Many votes in the Legislature are for political reasons, or are designed by Leadership to split allies. We've done our best to pick votes that help to separate those who support our issues from those who don't.

For taxes, the obvious candidate was Sen. Wagle's tax cut for corporations and the highest earners, SB 22. This bill ultimately failed, but came back several times during the session in slightly changed versions. The first iteration of the bill is a good test of who is for tax cuts for those who don't need them, while putting up a pretense of helping middle and lower income Kansans.

For education finance, we ultimately chose the final vote on the Governor's plan, H Sub for SB 16. The Kansas Senate passed it with little debate, and then defended it against extremist legislators in the House who tried to make it substantially worse. It is possible they were betting on the Kansas Supreme Court turning it down, but the Court approved it.

For Medicaid expansion, it was tricky to find votes to count, as Leadership obstructed expansion advocates at every turn. Finally, we chose to count votes for HB 2066 to pass in the House, and the procedural vote to bring it out of committee in the Senate. Legislators who voted for that bill in either chamber faced the certain disapproval of Leadership. The House, later, also voted against a final budget bill for the State of Kansas in hopes of forcing a vote on the expansion bill in the Senate. We counted two of these votes, too, both for holding out, but then also for staying true when many capitulated and passed the budget.

For gun safety, we chose the bill to lower the age for concealed carry in Kansas to 18, even though it never got to the Senate. HB 2326 was such a miscarriage of responsible gun safety we could not keep it out.

For women's reproductive health, we gave points both for opposing SB 67—which mandated doctors inform their patients about medical abortion reversal, despite it being an unproven procedure—and for voting to sustain the Governor's veto of the bill. This way, supporters of women's rights get full marks, while those who changed their minds in order to support the Governor got some credit.

What was the result?

Be sure to check the scorecard yourself for your own legislators (or check on ksleglookup.org, the scores have all been updated!). That's the most important result: how did the people who represent you vote?

Here are some general stats and analysis, however, based on the percentage scores in alignment with MainStream's position on the bills.

For the Kansas Legislature as a whole, the average score on 2019 votes was 47%. Lifetime scores came in at an average of 51%, down from 59% in 2018. That's a large decrease that can be attributed to a retrenchment of extremists this year. These numbers don't tell the whole story, however, as we have a bicameral legislature, and the two chambers often act differently.

The Kansas House of Representatives as a whole scored 45% on votes in 2019. The chamber's lifetime scores came in at 50%, down from 61% in 2018. All eight of the new 0% legislators were seated in the House, and some replaced legislators who were more friendly to MainStream's causes.

The Kansas Senate scored 52% as a whole. Their lifetime score was also 52%, dropping from just 54% in 2018.

Leadership in 2019 was far out of line with their chambers, however, reinforcing what we experienced in person in Topeka this year. House Majority Leadership voted with MainStream just 1% on average in 2019, compared to 45% for their chamber. In 2019, they were out of line even with their own party, which came in at 20%. Senate Majority Leadership, bolstered by their wait-and-see approval of education finance, came in at 35% in 2019. Even so, that is below the 52% for the Senate as a whole, albeit higher by a smidge than their own party at 32%.

That's a lot of numbers, what do they mean?

In short, the Kansas Legislature voted more conservatively in 2019, despite what felt like a win for Democrats in the Fall of 2018. The House got much more conservative, led off the cliff by the Majority's Leadership, which voted with MainStream just 1% of the time in 2019.

While the number of Democrats rose in 2019, many of those gains came at the expense of moderate Republican seats, so the voting percentage in those seats did not change much. Some reliable votes were also replaced by more conservative voices, either through election (some very close races were lost, some by Democrats, especially in Western Kansas), or replacement (e.g., Vicki Schmidt (R) had a lifetime score of 93% when she was elected to be Insurance Commissioner, her replacement is Eric Rucker (R), who scored 25% this year).

In addition, several high profile party changes were made by former Republicans with 100% voting records. While they continued to vote 100% as Democrats, an argument could be made that their presence in the Republican caucus meetings was missed, as both moderating voices and to provide cover for more conservative colleagues who may have wanted to buck their Leadership.

And in an interesting note, of the 32 legislators who were brand new to the Legislature in 2019, eight voted 0% in 2019, while six voted 100%. The average score for all newcomers in 2019 was just 35%, well below the 47% average for the Legislature as whole.

What now?

There is no more important note to make about these results than this: all the work done to elect Gov. Laura Kelly was well worth it, as her veto—and the weight of the office of the Governor itself—had a clear mitigating factor on extremist legislation in 2019.

Close behind that, however, is the need to acknowledge that the 2020 Legislative Session, especially with the backdrop of elections, redistricting, and a Presidential race, will be fraught with political maneuvering and votes.

MainStream will track them, and report the results. If you'd like to support these efforts, please consider donating to the Coalition here. Thank you.

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