The Kansas Black Leadership Council, a nonpartisan coalition of African-American leaders across the state, have submitted their 2021 legislative platform to members of the Kansas Legislature and state leadership. This year’s platform builds on the council’s previous platforms and identifies five focus areas.
The areas are as follows:
• Expand Medicaid
• Cap Payday loan rates and/or revise laws regulating such loans
• Increase the state’s minimum wage
• Fair redistricting (a federal dicenniel requirement)
• Driver’s license suspension reform
“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 2021 platform was voted on by KBLC members, during the organization’s annual Platform Conference, which this year was held virtually in November 2020.
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 addressed by law, court 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.
On the platform for several years were voter-related issues, in response to the tough voter registration laws put into effect by then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. With most of those laws overturned by the courts and the 2020 presidential election out of the way, voter registration laws slipped in priority. However, actions by legislators across the country – and in Kansas – to tighten voter laws in response to Republican losses and high African-American turnout at the poles, voter issues might have been an important issue to keep on the platform.
In other instances, priorities have just changed. On the platform in 2019, but not back this year was a proposal to eliminate sales tax on groceries in Kansas.
“It’s still an important issue,” says Gooch, “but it just didn’t make the top five this year. Other things were far more pressing and also seemed to have momentum behind them. With limited resources, we feel it is important to put our efforts behind issues where we can also build positive and powerful collaborations for change.”
Bills have been introduced each year on many of the measures, with some items even making it to the floor for a vote. One 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 the limelight.”