The 2021 Kansas Legislative Session has come to an end and overall, there were some decent wins for Kansas’ African American community. While we didn’t get everything we’d hoped for, we really didn’t get dragged over the coals as much as we might have, especially considering the mood of the Republican Party across the nation.
Driver’s License Suspension
Reform — This was a long battle led by Sen. Oletha Faust Goudeau, with backing from the rest of the Kansas Black Legislative Caucus, Appleseed and the Wichita Racial Profiling Committee. While there are some really great changes
in the bill that helps those of you who currently have your driver’s license suspended, and those who might have their license suspended in the future, there’s still a lot of work to do on driver’s license suspension reform in Kansas.
Although I’ve done a couple of videos on this topic already, you should schedule to attend our webinar on Wed., May 26 with two attorneys who can better explain your rights under the new law and they’ll be able to take and answer
questions. This bill goes into effect July 1 Budget — Following the settle of a long, drawn-out lawsuit, the
Kanas Legislature decided not to mess with school funding and kept it at the level the courts required.
The legislature didn’t balance the budget by once again stripping money from the Department of Transportation’s road improvement fund, so we can continue to see much-needed road improvements across the state. I understand, from a conversation with Gov. Laura Kelly earlier this week that she recommended and the legislature approved additional
Funding for the State’s understaffed public defender’s offices.
Medical Marijuana –No, it didn’t pass, but the bill was so terrible, I’m glad it didn’t pass. The legislature needs to go back to the table and develop a plan that doesn’t allow rich corporations from outside of Kansas to
come into the state and dominate our state’s marijuana industry. Like they’ve fought hard to keep hard liquor and wine out of the liquor stores as a way to support small, locally-owned liquor stores, the legislature needs to look at how they can help grow a local, small-owned, marijuana business industry in this state. They also need to look at how they will guarantee the state’s African-American community benefits from marijuana sales, since more than any other community, ours suffered exponentially from the decade’s long war on drugs.
There were a few other laws, that passed, most of which we’ve covered in past issues, including the bill that requires Evergy to notify the community before they come through neighborhoods with those gigantic transmission poles. There are also a couple of bills that sound good on the surface, but we’ll need to do more research. We were pleased to read
that the Kansas closed case task force was extended and renamed the Alvin Sykes cold case DNA task force after the late KCK community hero who died earlier this year. The Kansas criminal justice reform commission was also extended. I just wish the legislature would act more aggressively on their reform recommendations. Still, it’s good. to keep an entity focused on how our state can make some realistic and positive criminal justice reform. I also see there’s a law establishing the first-time home buyer savings account act. It sounds good on the surface. We’ll do our research and get back to you on that.
Medicaid Expansion – Yet again the Kansas legislature clearly voted against the will of the people
Tighter Voting Rules – Republicans pushed through tighter restrictions on voting. The new law includes provisions that make it a misdemeanor to return more than 10 advance ballots on behalf of other voters, and makes impersonating an election official a felony. 18-year-olds are now allowed to carry concealed weapons Payday Loan reform Thanks to stimulus checks a lot of people were able to get into a better financial position and hopefully have figured out how to stay away from those places, but the time will come again. Still, too many people are stuck in those debt traps. Reasonable reform measures were proposed but didn’t get much traction in the legislature again this year.
Minimum Wage Increase — An increase in the State’s minimum wage. We don’t need to wait on the feds to raise the minimum pay rate in our state.
Compensating College Athletes — Allowing college athletes to be compensated for the use of their likeness only seems fair. Everybody else is getting paid except the poor athletes who are doing all the work. Besides, if Kansas doesn’t get a law passed fairly quickly the lack of this type of law will prove critical to our ability to recruit top-notch athletes, since more and more states are beginning to pass similar laws.