The Kansas Black Leadership Council, a nonpartisan coalition of African-American leaders across the state have submitted their 2019 legislative platform to members of the Kansas Legislature and state leadership. This year’s platform builds on the Council’s previous platforms and identifies seven focus areas:

• Expand Medicaid

• Same Day Voter Registration

• Cap Payday loan rates and/or revise laws regulating such loans

• Adopt the Kansas Smart Justice Agenda

• Increase the state’s minimum wage

• Eliminate sales tax on groceries

• Designate some state contracts and purchases for small Kansas-based businesses.

“As in previous years, our platform continues to focus on issues that we feel, if addressed, will have the great positive impact on African Americans across the state,” said Bonita Gooch, president of the Kansas Black Leadership Council. “While this is a platform for and by the state’s Black community, if approved, the items on the platform will have a positive impact on all Kansans.”

The Kansas Black Leadership Council adopted their first platform ahead of the 2016 Kansas legislative session. A group of approximately 75 leaders from across the state gathered under the motto, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get,” to put together the first of its kind platform of issues representative the needs of the state’s Black community.

The platform hasn’t changed much over the years. A few things have passed or been address by law, rulings or administrative action. One item on the 2017 platform, for the state to adopt a “Ban-the-Box” policy, was implemented last year through an executive order issued by Gov. Jeff Colyer. As a result of of the order, the question, “have you been convicted of a crime,” has been removed from the state’s job applications. 

The initial KBLC platform called for the repeal of the Kansas Safe Act, including both the requirement to provide an ID to vote and the proof of citizenship to register to vote. Thanks to rulings on a number of lawsuits, many of them filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, some of the measures of the SAFE Act have been ruled illegal, including the proof of citizenship requirement.

Bills have been introduced each year on many of the measures, with some items even making it to the floor for a vote. Last year, Medicaid Expansion passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by then Gov. Sam Brownback.

Gooch says she’s pleased with positive progress on all of the issues put forth by the Council.

“Each year, we continue to see legislation introduced on many of our issues, and even floor votes on some of the issues,” says Gooch. “We don’t always get the results we want, but we recognize how important it is to keep our issues in limelight.”

Gov. Laura Kelly offered encouragement to KBLC, “continue to bring it (our issues) back, time and time again,” said Kelly “YOU shouldn’t give up.”

As proof, she brought up Scruffy’s bill, an animal abuse bill Sen. David Haley worked on for years.

“Year after year he brought the bill back until he finally got it passed,” said Kelly.

Gooch agreed, “We find a need to vary our lost a little year to year, but you can bet we’re going to continue to work on these core issues until we get them passed,” said Gooch.

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