1. Medicaid Expansion
The KBLC supports the expansion of Medicaid to cover the citizens of Kansas whose income currently leaves them in the gap where their income is too high to qualify for Medicaid in Kansas and too low to participate in the Federal Affordable Care Act.
Many of these individuals do not receive healthcare from their employer and do not earn enough money to afford it on the private insurance market. Refusing to accept Medicaid funding from the federal government isn’t just bad for Kansas residents, it is also bad for the state’s finances. By not expanding Medicaid and turning away millions of dollars that would flow into our economy.
The failure to expand Medicaid disproportionately affects African Americans. Nationally, adults of color make up over half (56%) of the total 3.1 million uninsured adults in the coverage gap. Hispanics (22%) ad Blacks (30%) together account for more than half of uninsured adults in the coverage gap; other people of color make up another 4%, while the remaining 44% are White.
According to a 2012 publication commissioned by the Kansas African American Affairs Commission: Infant mortality, asthma, life expectancy, cancer, stroke, and obesity are all areas that Blacks in Kansas face double digit differences when compared to White citizens. KBLC recognizes that it is important for more African Americans in Kansas to have insurance if we are to close or even begin to narrow this racial health gap in Kansas.
2. SHL 2014 Payday Loan Bill
The KBLC supports the passage of a payday and title loan bill for all Kansans, similar to the federal and state bill approved for military members which caps the interest APR at 36%
Of all racial groups, Black are more likely to use Payday Loans according to a study by PEW Charitable Trusts, with 12% of African-Americans having taken out payday loans, more than twice the figure for Whites (4%), and twice the figure for Hispanics and other races or ethnicities (both at 6%). It’s no secret that payday loan storefronts often pop up in lower-income communities where consumers are more likely to need a quick infusion of cash to get to the next paycheck.
While KBLC recognizes there is a need for an option to provide money to individuals who cannot take advantage of traditional loans sources, they don’t accept the typical 300+% interest rates of traditional payday and title loans as a model that is economically viable for low-income communities. That is why KBLC recommends expanding to the general public, the interest rate approved on a federal level and in Kansas for military personnel. The Military Lending Act sets the maximum interest rate and fees associated with loans for active duty military at 36%.
3. Repeal of Voting Registration Laws that require proof of citizenship
The KBLC seeks full repeal of the SAFE Act including both the ID requirement to vote and proof of citizenship to register to vote. Voting is a constitutionally protected right and instead of implementing laws that disenfranchises people, the KBLC supports measures to increase access of all citizens to the ballot box and encourage the passage of the measure to allow Same (or Election) Day registration in Kansas.
The SAFE Act is an obstacle keeping people in Kansas from engaging in their constitutional right to vote. Since the SAFE Act’s requirement to provide proof of citizenship went into effect, more than 36,000 people who otherwise would have been added to the voting roles, have their voting rights in suspension. According to the Wichita Eagle that represents nearly 16% of the people who have tried to register to vote since the requirement went into effect.
Since the KBLC believes every citizen deserves the right to vote easily and without barriers, we support passage of laws to allow Election Day voter registration in Kansas. Similar laws in other states have proven to significantly increase citizen participation in the voting process. In 2014, states with Election Day voter registration averaged 12% higher voter turnout than states without it.
4. Repeal of the death penalty
KBLC opposes the death penalty for numerous reasons and supports HB 2129, which seeks to abolish the death penalty in Kansas and create the crime of aggravated murder.
Among the reasons we oppose the death penalty are the high associated costs, the lack of adequate legal representation for those accused of the death penalty, the fact that the research does not show that the existence of the death penalty is a deterrent to murder, and particularly because of racial disparities in charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty.
For many years, reports from around the country have found that pervasive racial prejudice in the application of the death penalty exists. The non-partisan U. S General Accounting Office found “a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in charging, sentencing, and impositions of the death penalty.” The study concluded that an African-American defendant was several times more likely to be sentenced to death if the murder victim was White. This has been confirmed by the findings of the many other studies that, holding all other factors constant, the single most reliable predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim.
Kansas is one of 31 states with the death penalty and the KBLC seeks to repeal the death penalty in Kansas.
5. Body cameras for all police departments
The KBLC seeks to increase transparency and accountability in policing in Kansas and therefore supports SB18, the Body Worn Camera Bill which requires all officers in the State of Kansas to wear a body camera.
Body cameras will hold both officers and the public accountable in interactions with one another and the KBLC seeks to strengthen the relationship between citizens and the police officers that serve them. In addition to body cameras, the KBLC supports the transparency in access to footage captured by body cameras which the KBLC feels defeats the purpose of the cameras application.
Studies have shown that the use of body cameras limits use-of-force complaints. A study of body camera use in Rialto, CA found that “During the 12-month Rialto experiment, use-of-force by officers wearing cameras fell by 59% and complaints against officers dropped by 87% compared to the previous year’s totals.”
6. Increase of the state’s minimum wage
The KBLC seeks to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.25/hr by 2017 in order to combat unemployment and underemployment. KBLC will lobby for and support the Kansas Working Families Pay Raise Act, HB2012, to give families and individuals an opportunity to be able to better take care of themselves and their families.
Kansas last had a minimum wage increase in 2009 and 29 states have a higher minimum wage. It continues to be the case that increasing minimum wages are presented as a creator or destroyer of jobs. In reality, job growth is driven by rising incomes and growing customer bases that demand products, prompting businesses to respond by hiring more people to increase their output and serve the growing customer demand. Low wages do not create jobs or expand customer bases.
Because of high unemployment rates, Black working people are far more likely than White working people to accept low-wage work. Among household with full-time year-round working people, 9.2% of Black families live in poverty compared with 3.4% of White families; among female-headed households in the Black community, it’s 18.1%. Working and being poor can be a poverty trap itself.
7. Adoption of an economic development program designed to revitalize impoverished Kansas communities
KBLC agrees with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, that growing businesses in Kansas will help grow the state’s economy. That’s why we support passage of 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 neighborhoods.
While much of the economic development in the state has focused on incentives for larger businesses, the Kansas Reinvestment Act offers incentives to small businesses that are located in or will relocate to impoverished neighborhoods. These incentives will help grow these businesses, create jobs, revitalize and put into use often abandoned buildings and increase the amount of money circulating in these communities.
While this program is not a “minority” program, a program like this will benefit communities of color and minority-owned businesses that are often truly small businesses and located in impoverished communities. Key to the economic growth of African-American communities is growing Black businesses. Growing Black businesses helps grow Black wealth, decreases Black unemployment rates, with Black businesses employing Black workers at a much higher rate than non-Black businesses, and revitalizes Black communities that often meet the bill’s impoverished definition of a “zip code in which the median income does not exceed 40% of the current state median income in the current year.”
8. The Kansas Smart Justice Agenda
The KBLC will support the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas’ Criminal Justice Reform Agenda which seeks to amend Kansas Law or encourage the legislature to enact the following policies:
- Expand the use of diversion for those with minimal criminal records through the amendment of existing Kansas law by articulating that diversion is appropriate and recommended in circumstances where the sentence is probation.
- Reduces sentences for non-violent drug crimes by de-felonizing drug-possession, a step already taken by fifteen other states.
- Expand the use of pre-adjudication drug courts which have the power to drop charges if the offender completes a drug treatment program.
- Improve reentry and recidivism prevention services by allocating funding to proven, evidence-based programs to help individuals transition back into community life and follow the lead of Topeka, Wichita and Wyandotte County in ‘Banning the Box’ – removing the criminal history question from state job applications.
- Enhance date collection and analysis on racial profiling by amending the current Kansas racial profiling law to gather better date on racial profiling in Kansas.
- End the routine use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities to reduce psychological damage to individuals subjected to it.
- Reform civil asset forfeiture laws to prevent innocent citizens from having their property unfairly stripped from them.
The U.S has 5% of the population and accounts for 25% of the world’s prisoners, 39% of which are Black. Additionally, 1 in 15 Black males aged 18 or older is incarcerated compared to 1 in 106 white males. KBLC supports this agenda as a way to help reduce this highly disproportionate trend.