BY THE NUMBERS: The third-annual Freedom Index compiled by the Kansas Policy Institute ranks how various lawmakers voted on legislation impacting economic freedom, student-focused education, individual liberty and limited government.
By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — The 2014 Freedom Index for Kansas legislators is out, and not everyone is keen to talk about their spot in the rankings.
Compiled by the Kansas Policy Institute, the index has been a post-session retrospective staple since 2012. The index ranks state lawmakers according to votes on various pieces of legislation; positive points are awarded for moves supporting economic freedom, student-focused education, limited government and individual liberty, while negative points are awarded for opposing such principles.
For example, the Legislature’s hotly-debated school finance fix, HB 2506, gave supporting lawmakers eight points, while HB 2455, which would have granted a property tax exemption to private utilities operating on military bases in Kansas, would have cost supporters one point.
Rep. Craig McPherson
Craig McPherson, R-Overland Park, claimed the top spot this year with a 92 percent freedom ranking, scoring 47 out of a potential 60 points. McPherson said the index looks “not necessarily at the votes that get the most media attention, but the things that we do day-to-day in the statehouse.”
“I’m certainly happy for the recognition,” McPherson told Kansas Watchdog. “One of the reasons I’m in office is, I think, the continual increase of government regulation and burdensome mandates and restrictions on liberty is something that needs to be reversed, and I think it takes diligence to make sure we’re not passing bills without examining what their impact will be on the people of Kansas.”
Though only in its third year, McPherson said the KPI index has quickly gained traction among state lawmakers.
Sen. Vicki Schmidt
But that’s not necessarily the case for folks who found themselves at the bottom-end of the list.
Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, clocked-in at third from the bottom, making her the lowest-ranked Republican in the Legislature with a score of -32.
“I’m not really interested in commenting on that,” Schmidt told Kansas Watchdog. She has consistently ranked near the bottom of the index since its inception.
But while Schmidt was at least cordial about her aversion to the ranking, Winfield Democratic Rep. Ed Trimmer wasn’t quite so tactful. Trimmer was the highest-ranking Democrat, earning -11 points.
Rep. Ed Trimmer
Trimmer issued a curt “no comment” before abruptly hanging up the phone.
While the bottom-third of the index is populated heavily by Democrats, Schmidt and a handful of other Republicans help break up the rankings. Dave Trabert, KPI president, said in a news release that the index focuses on non-partisan issues.
“Each year it has been clear that support of economic freedom isn’t an issue of political affiliation. Republicans represented at least 70 percent of all House members and all Senate members since 2012,” Trabert said. “Those counts would produce fairly strong results one way or the other if economic freedom was a partisan issue, but instead, the overall score of both chambers was very near neutral.”
“Too often votes come down to parochial or personal issues and the idea of freedom is left on the Legislature’s cutting room floor,” he added. “Hopefully, the Kansas Freedom Index can start to recalibrate citizens and legislators towards supporting the freedoms of everyday Kansans and not be driven by politics.”
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