This week's winter weather made for a somewhat quieter start to the legislative session. A major highlight of the week was Governor Laura Kelly's State of the State address. Our Deputy Director, Mike Fonkert, was in the Statehouse to watch the speech, and we couldn't agree more when Governor Kelly talked about the importance of rural Kansas. As a statewide organization with staff in rural communities, we absolutely agree that when rural Kansas is doing well, everyone is doing well.
Our team has been actively engaged at the Statehouse this week, and here's what they've taken note of:
Reducing Hunger in Kansas The House Committee on Welfare Reform met yesterday and heard from the Department for Children and Families on federal and state policy changes. The most notable changes include the implementation of state able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD) restrictions, federal exemptions for ABAWDs, as well as the long-term implementation of the summer-ebt program, a program that provides food assistance benefits during the summer months to children who receive free and reduced-price school meals. Bills that will impact SNAP food assistance will likely be introduced in the coming weeks, and we will be sure to keep you updated.
If you're interested in delving more deeply into food access across state, we invite you to join Kansas Appleseed's Hunger Action Team. With monthly Zoom meetings, the Hunger Action Team connects, strategizes on food access policies and bills, and builds power with advocates across the state. Our next meeting is on Thursday, February 8th at 11:00 a.m. Register here.
Supporting Justice-Involved Youth With the quiet week, committees haven’t dived into any youth justice-related legislation just yet. But Kansas Appleseed staff has been working with the Debt Free Justice - KS coalition to have bills to eliminate fines and fees for justice-involved youth in both the House and Senate. You may recall we worked with this same coalition last year on this same issue and were able to successfully, and unanimously pass a bill out of the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.
We’ve also continued our work on limiting the use of restraints, including shackles, for children in courtroom settings. A bill on this topic should be introduced as early as next week.
Getting Kansans Back to Work Similarly, not a lot has happened yet with respect to our efforts to reform debt-based driver’s license suspensions, except for one noteworthy bill introduction. Senate Bill 341 was introduced on Wednesday, and that bill would authorize certain individuals with revoked driver's licenses to be eligible for restricted driving privileges. It would expand permitted driving activities for individuals with restricted licenses to include driving to and from dropping off or picking up children from school or child care.
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