African-American leaders from across the state gathered in Junction City on Sat., Oct. 1 and adopted their 2017 legislative agenda reflecting the issues and concerns of Kansas’ African-American community.
Under this year’s theme, “From protests, to the polls, to policies,” and the organization’s overriding motto of “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” approximately 70 leaders from across the state heard presentations on issues before adopting a four issue platform. Items on this year’s platform include:
•Revising payday loans laws in Kansas in a manner that benefits the consumer,
•Pushing the State of Kansas to ban-the-box on their job applications,
•Expansion of Medicaid in Kansas to include those in the income gap between making enough to qualify for the Affordable Care Act and too much to qualify for Medicaid in Kansas, and
•To establish a statewide small business development program designed to help grow small Kansas-based businesses, and the Kansas economy, by designating certain small value state contracts strictly for small Kansas-owned businesses. The program would also include a mentoring program that would offer larger businesses and incentive for mentoring and helping small Kansas businesses.
The small businesses development program is not proposed as a minority or woman business program. This program would not discriminate on the basis of race, and all Kansas-owned businesses that meet the identified designation of “small” could participate in the program. African-American businesses would benefit from this program, because almost all African-American owned businesses are small businesses.
KBLC members used the results of a survey of African-Americans from across the state as a tool in selecting the topics for their 2017 Platform. In the survey, participants identified economics as the area where they felt state improvements could have the most positive impact on African Americans across the state.
“Based on the survey, our steering committee decided to present two economic development items for inclusion on our platform,” says Bonita Gooch, KBLC president. “The convention body accepted both of them for inclusion in the platform—payday lending revisions and the Kansas Small Business Program.
Convention members also accepted the steering committee’s recommendation to limit the number of items on this year’s platform. The groups 2016 Platform had eight main platform items, including the Smart Justice Agenda that has a total of seven “agenda” items.
“So we actually had a 14 point platform last year,” says Gooch. “With that much to keep up with, we weren’t able to give much time to any one item. This year, we’ll stay focused.”
KBLC will also continue to collaborate with other organizations who are working on similar items. They’ll join the existing coalitions pushing for Medicaid expansion and, the group will remain a part of the American Civil Liberties Union led-Smart Group. KBLC developed worked closely with the Kansas African American Affairs Commission during the planning of this year’s conference. It’s a relationship they hope to grow.
In addition, KBLC President Gooch, will make a presentation of the platform to the Kansas Organization of NAACP Branches later this month.
Last year, KBLC introduced two bills in the Kansas Legislature in support of two of their agenda items. Neither bill made it out of committee. This year, KBLC members says they’re much more astute, and realize that nothing moves quickly in Topeka. This year, in some cases the group’s first steps will be working to build support for a proposal and/or idea. For example, instead of proposing a bill to revise Payday loans in Kansas, the group voted to ask Gov. Sam Brownback to appoint a committee to look at how best payday loans in Kansas might be amended.
“What we realize is that our work is just beginning. The real work begins now. We have to take the steps to get the change we want,” says Gooch.
The group has a lot to do to be ready for the 2017 legislative session. After preparing a final draft of their platform, they’ll mail copies to the newly elected legislature and begin the process of coalition and support building.
Individuals in attendance agreed to serve on committees designed to move items forward. Gooch invites other individuals across the state to join in the effort to affect change by signing up to work onone of the committees. You can sign-up to assist KBLC online at www.kansasblc.com.