The platform adopted at the organization’s annual convention in October 2016, reflects issues that if addressed by the legislature, should have a positive impact on African Americans across the state.
This is the second year the organization has forwarded a platform to the legislature.
This year, the organization’s leaders, solicited input on issues of concern to Black Kansans through an online survey. They used the survey results, plus information compiled by experts in economics, health care, and criminal justice, in the development of this year’s platform.
The theory behind the platform is, “Ask for Something” says KBLC president and Community Voice Editor-in- Chief Bonita Gooch.
“For so long, members of Kansas’ African-American community have simply accepted what’s come out way. We rarely show up and ask the legislature for anything. We rarely speak for, or against, an issue,” says Gooch. “Members of KBLC felt it was time for a change.”
The concept of presenting a platform isn’t new to the legislature, they regularly receive platforms from chambers, school boards, colleges and university, a variety of interest-focused organizations and even the LGBT community.
This year’s platform consist of four items, down from seven items in 2016.
“We decided we could be more effective if we focused on fewer issues,” says Gooch. “We’ll continue to lend our name and support to the issues on last year’s platform, but we’ll expend the majority of our organization’s efforts on these select four items.
Review and Propose Changes to Payday Loan Regulations
We’re asking the legislature or governor to appoint a committee to review and propose revisions to the state’s current payday loan policies. Current industry interest rates, in excess of 400%, and industry practices of churning accounts, too often leaves the state’s most economically vulnerable citizens trapped in a spiral of debt they can not afford to escape. We’re recommending the appointment of a committee composed of representatives from: the payday loan industry, financial institutions, the communities most impacted by these loans, and past and present payday loan customers.
Working together, we feel confident a committee of this type could develop a proposal for new state payday loan regulations that are less oppresive while still assuring a reasonable short-term loan option remains available to those who need it.
Ban-the-Box on State Job Applications
We ask the legislature and/or governor to pass a policy that eliminates the question of whether a person is a convicted felon on all applications for jobs with State of Kansas agencies and contractors. This policy, passed by several Kansas governmental organizations and private employers (The City of Wichita and Koch Industries for example) gives these individuals an opportunity to participate fully in Kansas’ economy.
Ban-the-box policies do not prevent background checks, or take away an organization’s ability to consider the applicability of an individual’s past conviction in relationship to the position they are applying for. What it does, is give these individuals a fighting chance and, it stops a broad sweeping policy that judges people based on a past action instead of looking at individuals based on who and what they are today.
Implement a Small Business Development Program
While the Kansas legislature hoped to spur the economy by giving Kansas businesses a tax break, we propose spurring the economy by giving Kansas-based small businesses work. We propose designating certain small value state contracts strictly for small Kansas-owned businesses. 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.
Instead of tax breaks, we believe most Kansas businesses would rather have more business. Let’s help Kansas businesses grow and in turn they will hire more people to get these jobs done, and generate more withholding taxes revenue, sales taxes and yes income taxes for Kansas. KBLC supports this program because we recognize most Black-owned businesses are small businesses.
We join the growing group of organizations across the state asking the legislature to close the gap between the Kansas Medicaid eligibility and the Affordable Care Act eligibility to help more Kansans have affordable insurance.
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 Justice Group.
Last year, KBLC introduced two bills in the Kansas Legislature in support of two platform items. Neither bill made it out of committee, however KS Rep Gail Finney has already reintroduced the KBLC-backed bill for Same Day Voter Registration. KBLC recognized same day voter registration as a way to expand access to the voting booth and voter participation.
Formed in 2015, membership in KBLC is open to anyone in the state who has an interest in working to improve the condition of African Americans in Kansas. You can learn more about KBLC, read their last year’ and this year platform, volunteer, join, and/or follow them online at www.kansasblc.com or at Facebook.com/kblc100.