A Weekly Rundown of Important Activity in Topeka, from a Principled Perspective
“I am free! for I have in me the strength of truth.”
~ Sophocles
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:
  • Legislative Post Audit Reveals Misappropriated $405 Million. A Legislative Post Audit study revealed the unauthorized distribution of $405 million to schools in transportation funding in violation of state law, which prompted a letter from legislative leaders and potential involvement by the Kansas Attorney General. (Source)

  • Kansas Citizens Join in Recognizing School Choice Week. This week is School Choice week and many Kansas citizens joined in the festivities, with over 281 events throughout Kansas to “raise awareness about opportunity in education and spark conversations about what options are available – and what options parents want.”  A School Choice Rally was held in the State Capitol on Wednesday. (Source)

  • Unemployment is Down Again in Kansas.  In December, unemployment in Kansas went down another tick to 3.4%. One year ago, the rate was 4.3%. Kansas gained 5,000 jobs in the last two months. (Source)
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.
Editorial: Pro-dependency advocates miss the mark in attacking Kansas welfare reform

Jonathan Ingram, Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Government Accountability, wrote the above piece regarding welfare reform in Kansas. Here is a key excerpt:

"The Kansas results show a clear trend: higher earnings and less dependency after leaving welfare. In fact, higher earnings more than offset lost welfare benefits, leaving these families financially better off. While there remains more work to be done to ensure as many families as possible move back onto the path of self-sufficiency through employment, Kansas has made incredible progress in just a few short years."
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:

After many months of delay by Democrats in the United States Senate, Governor Brownback was confirmed on Wednesday as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. He was confirmed on a 50-49 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie.

Governor Brownback will officially resign on Wednesday, January 31st at 3 p.m. At that time, Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer will be sworn in as the 47th Governor of Kansas.
The big news late in the week was a Legislative Post Audit report which revealed personnel in the Department of Education distributed up to $405 million in education transportation funds for over 30 years that were not authorized by state law. That prompted a letter from legislative leaders in both chambers to Jim Porter, Chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education, asking for an independent forensic audit.

 A report in the Garden City Telegram indicated that the Kansas Attorney General believes the matter warranted further investigation by law enforcement. As of now, the Attorney General’s office has stated it supports a deeper independent audit and is monitoring the situation, but has not yet opened an investigation.

The Kansas Truth Caucus weighed in on the matter on Friday with this release:
The Kansas Truth Caucus issued the following statement in response to the Legislative Post Audit study, which revealed the Kansas Department of Education may have violated state law by misallocating as much as $405 million in taxpayer dollars over a period of several decades through the transportation weighting factor:

“We are deeply concerned when taxpayer dollars appear to be misallocated in direct violation of state law. Elected legislators are constitutionally responsible as appropriators of the peoples’ money—not staff members or judges. We join with legislative leadership in calling for an independent, forensic audit that will further reveal the truth behind what happened and why. That process should be free of politics, with a focus on the rule of law as determined by Kansas statutes.

“A deeper issue is the complexity of the school finance formula, which created an environment for this type of significant mistake to occur, thereby potentially damaging the credibility of the formula itself.  No transparency with no internal audits leaves the door wide open to mistakes and even corruption. As we consider school finance solutions, these factors should be considered - including more oversight and internal audits - so public trust can be restored.

"In the end, these are taxpayer dollars and the public deserves no less than a complete accounting of what happened and why, and assurances that errors like these will not happen in the future. Misuses such as these call into question the rationale for higher taxes when literally hundreds of millions in tax dollars have potentially been misappropriated in direct violation of legislative intent."
It was cold and wet, but that did not stop hundreds of pro-life Kansans from braving the weather and participating in the March for Life and Rally for Life this past Monday afternoon, which marked the 45 th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Many elected officials, including many members of the Kansas Truth Caucus, were present for the rally to support the cause of life.

During the past seven years, Kansas has taken remarkable steps and has transitioned to become one of the most pro-life states in the country. Thanks to the efforts of a pro-life governor, pro-life legislature, and allies at Kansans for Life, Kansas is leading the way in protecting the innocent among us.

That historic progress is now under threat by the Kansas Supreme Court. The Kansas Truth Caucus expressed its view on the case before the court regarding the live dismemberment ban, which has been in the Kansas Court system for over 2 ½ years. More on the law and the case can be found via The Federalist here and via Kansans for Life here.

Photos on the right courtesy of Kansas for Life.
January 21-27 was National School Choice Week and that included activities right here in Kansas. The main activities took place on Wednesday for “School Choice Day”, which included a rally inside the Capitol where many families who had been positive impacted by school choice were present.

In fact, there were 281 events throughout Kansas to “raise awareness about opportunity in education and spark conversations about what options are available – and what options parents want.”  

The cause of school choice is not going away, no matter how many in government try to act like it doesn’t exist. From state to state, it has been proven to work. Examples of success can be found here , here , and here .

The Kansas Legislature enacted the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship program in 2014. According to EdChoice, there are 292 students currently enrolled in the program, but up to 7% of Kansas students are eligible. You can learn more about the program by clicking here

Many students across the country, including here in Kansas, are trapped in schools where they are underperforming. In fact, it is in the very Gannon case ping-ponging between the Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Supreme Court that the core issue is the 25% of kids in Kansas who are not preforming up to standards.

Members of the Kansas Truth Caucus believe parents have a right to other options, whether that is another public school, private or parochial schools, or homeschooling. A child-focused, rather than system-focused, model of education would foremost care that the child receives a first-class education that prepares them for life, not which system produced it.

Images from the School Choice Rally held in Topeka this week:
Every week, the Truth Report will have a “Wallet Watch”, where we examine efforts to remove money from the wallets of hard-working Kansans.  
Speaking of compliance costs, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) – Kansas this week raised concerns with legislation that would give the Kansas Director of Revenue subpoena power, potentially increasing legal and compliance costs for small businesses.

From Dan Murray, NFIB-Kansas State Director:
“Tax and legal compliance costs are a major problem for small business owners who rarely have in-house professional staff to meet the demands of government regulations,” Murray says. “Further, tax compliance costs are 67% higher for small businesses than for big businesses.

“Compliance costs small business owners $18-$19 billion per year. Paperwork costs come to $74.24 per hour. The last thing small business needs is for the Department of Revenue to have another intimidating, costly compliance mechanism.”

Small businesses are the backbone of the Kansas economy and we will stand with them against efforts to impose new costs that expand the reach of government.
Burdensome Regulations Behind Historic Meat Market’s Decision to Close

According to the Wichita Eagle, a one-of-a-kind Kansas meat market – Brant’s Meat Market - is closing after 96 years. One of the reasons? Crippling federal regulations and a 22-page compliance form delivered by a state meat inspector. See this excerpt:

S tephanie Svaty said the decision to close the store came recently, largely because of federal regulations now being enforced. The store was not cited for any violation, Svaty said. A state meat inspector visited the store on Jan. 10 and reported that it needed to keep more documentation and paperwork in the future.

“It is just mainly the paperwork they brought in and told us we needed to start following,” Svaty said. “They gave us a 22-page document, which would be fine if we had 10 to 15 employees, we could understand. It wasn’t feasible hiring an extra person to keep track and check things. We have always had inspections, everything has always been checked and been fine. Maybe if they would have given it to us in chunks, it might not have been so overwhelming.

“We don’t freeze any of our meat, it is made fresh,” she said. “We’ve done this 96 years and to our knowledge we did not have anybody die from it or were hospitalized because of our products.”

“But my dad, he is 72 years old. This burst his bubble. The fire left him when he got that 22-page document and read it from front to back and made notes in the margins. We made our decision just this past week.”

As Ms. Svaty indicated, burdensome regulations – and complicated and expensive means to comply with those regulations – impact small businesses more than any other. They are part of a regulatory environment created by federal, state, and sometimes local regulations. If a business can’t stay open due to the costs of compliance, there is a problem. This was highlighted in a quote from the article by Marci Penner, Director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation:

“If anybody gets involved, it won’t be to save Brant’s but to address a bigger problem with legislation being oppressive to many small businesses,” she said. “Maybe the sadness of Brant’s will lead to some effort to change things so other small businesses may not have to struggle as hard.”

The Kansas Truth Caucus supports efforts to remove unreasonable regulations so businesses like Brant’s Meat Market can remain open and more businesses will want to set up shop in Kansas.