With policing reform, legalization of medical marijuana, and voting rights – just to name a few – on the agenda for Kansas’ 2023 legislative session, Black leaders across the state have a lot to take on at their annual Black Legislative Day at the Kansas Capitol on Tues., Feb. 14. 

Advance registration for the event is open on CommunityVoiceKS.com

The annual event extends an open invitation to anyone interested in issues that affect African Americans in Kansas to the capitol for an opportunity to grow their understanding of the issues and to advocate for or against legislation that may have a positive or negative impact on the state’s Black community. 

“This is an event for experienced advocates as well as for citizens hoping to grow their knowledge and understanding of the legislative process and the issues,” said Bonita Gooch, past president of the Kansas Black Leadership Council, one of the event’s primary sponsors. 

This is the fifth year for the day-long event that has annually attracted more than 100 African Americans from across the state to the capitol.  

Again this year, the event will include a series of panel presentations and discussions on hot legislative topics of the year, with a specific focus on the potential impact the legislation might have on the state’s Black community. 

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is set to address the group and the keynote speaker will be Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, who will speak on increasing justice in Kansas’ criminal justice system.    

Topics to be considered this year are: medical marijuana legalization, juvenile justice fines and fees, local control versus legislative control, voting rights, Black health disparities, the CROWN Act, predatory lending, and how to serve on a state board or commission.  

There is a distinguished and expert list of presenters who will serve on panels or present on session topics.  

Members of the Kansas Black Legislative Caucus, an organization open to the eight Black state elected officials, will have an opportunity to bring conference participants up to date on specific legislation they’re working on.  

Conference participants can take the time to see the legislative process in action by attending the daily opening session for either the Kansas Senate and/or the Kansas House. 

An important part of the day’s activities includes visiting with key members of House and Senate committees with first-level review of bills of major importance to the Black community.   

In the state’s legislative process, bills can’t make it to the floor for a vote until they’re passed out of the committee they’re assigned to for review. So, committee members are major gatekeepers in the legislative process. 

Stacey Knoell, executive director of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission – another Black Legislative Day sponsor – is looking for individuals to participate in this formal advocacy portion of the day.  Individuals who sign up for advocacy will work as part of a group assigned to meet with at least one or more key committee members. 

You can sign up to be an advocate when you register or you can contact Knoell directly at stacey.knoell@ks.gov or 785-220-8003.  

Registration for the KBLD is free, but individuals who pay the $15 registration get lunch and a Kansas Black Leadership Council membership. Registration is online at CommunityVoiceKS.com 

Kansas Black Legislative Day is a collaborative project of the Kansas State Branches of the NAACP, Kansas Black Legislative Caucus, the Kansas African American Affairs Commission and the Kansas Black Leadership Council. The event is co-sponsored in part by Kerry Gooch, lobbyist with Gooch Strategies. 

The deadline to register is Fri., Feb. 10.