Leaders in Kansas’ African-American community gathered in Topeka on Sat., Nov. 21, and adopted a first of its kind legislative agenda reflecting the issues and concerns of Kansas’ African-American community.

Under the motto of “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” approximately 75 leaders from across the state heard presentations on issues before voting on a platform that included eight major issues: increasing the minimum wage, expansion of Medicaid, limiting payday loan interest rates, repealing voter proof of citizenship requirements, repeal of the death penalty, body cameras for all police officers and an extensive criminal justice reform platform.

Most of the platform issues are already under consideration by the legislature. Two measures that are unique are a proposal to adopt Election Day Voter Registration and an economic development program for impoverished communities, similar to the rural opportunity zones already in place in Kansas. 

The group sees Election Day Registration as a way to increase voter participation. Voter participation averaged 12% higher in 2014 elections in the fourteen states plus District of Columbia, where Election Day registration is in place.

“We see this as an opportunity to counteract some of the concerns generated by the proof of citizenship requirements of the SAFE Act, while still addressing the Secretary of State’s concern about ‘voter fraud,’” said Bonita Gooch, president of the Kansas Black Leadership Council.

Gooch says after people attempt to register to vote without their proof of citizenship, it’s become obvious by the 36,000 voter registrations in suspension, that the extra step is a deal breaker for many.

“It’s that second step, going back and turning in your proof of citizenship that hangs people up. However on Election day, motivated to vote, it they can get out their ID, proof of citizenship and show up at the poll, that extra step has been eliminated,” said Gooch.

The KBLC also gave their support to SB340 the Kansas Reinvestment Act, a bill that encourages investment in impoverished Kansas neighborhoods as a way to revitalized those communities, create jobs and stabilize those neighborhoods. The bill makes grant funds available to small businesses who invest in these communities. A similar Rural Opportunities Zone Bill gives incentives for people to move to 77 rural counties in Kansas as a way to encourage and stabilize these communities.

The Kansas Black Leadership Council is a non-partisan organization, with both Republicans and Democrats as members. The group will focus on educating African-Americans across the state about the issues in the platform. In addition, the group will meet in Topeka during the legislative session to present their agenda to the legislators.

You can keep up with KBLC online at www.kansasblc.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kblc100.

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