Archive for Opinions

Legislative newsletter from Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist.

Rep. Pam Curtis


by Rep. Pam Curtis

I continue to push for the Kansas House to pass legislation to allow prevailing wage be paid on public projects. On Thursday I offered an amendment on the floor to allow prevailing wage be paid on state public projects.

Numerous studies have been conducted that show the benefits of paying prevailing wage to the economic health of our local communities and to our state.

Prevailing wage helps maintain a high quality construction workforce and provide workers with the income needed to provide for themselves and their families. In Wyandotte County we have seen first-hand the benefits of paying prevailing wage, an option that was taken away from local government by the Kansas Legislature three years ago. I will continue to fight to restore the local option for prevailing wage.

House Standing Committees, except for exempt committees, completed their work for the session this past week. We will spend most of the coming week on the House Floor to consider those bills that have passed out of committee.

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I both value and need your input on the various issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 452-S, Kansas Statehouse, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at 785-296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can email me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.

Working for working Kansans

Kansas House Democrats proposed several amendments this week on the floor that would benefit the working men and women of Kansas. These amendments included “Buy American,” which places a preference on buying American products when possible, if those products met or exceeded certain specifications. This would apply to state contracts.

Another proposed amendment offered on the floor was for prevailing wage. This means setting the hourly wage on public projects at the rate paid in the largest city in each county to the majority of workers, laborers and mechanics.

Prevailing wages are established by the Department of Labor and Industries and they are established separately for each county, and are reflective of local wage conditions. The prevailing wage amendment would have applied to state funded projects only. It would ensure safe, trained, financially responsible, stable contractors to complete projects, fair wages, offer local control, and maximize our return on the dollars we invest in our local construction projects.

Unfortunately, these two amendments failed to pass, though both had overwhelming Democratic support.

This week on the House floor

This week, the House has been busy passing numerous bills. The many pieces of legislation ranged on issues from technology to healthcare to agriculture. Find a few of these bills detailed below.

Sub HB 2331: An act concerning information systems and communications; creating the representative Jim Morrison cybersecurity act; relating to digital information security for Kansas executive branch agencies; establishing the Kansas information security office; establishing the cybersecurity state fund and cybersecurity state grant fund in the state treasury, creating the Kansas information technology enterprise. See www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/documents/hb2331_01_0000.pdf.

H Sub for SB 60: An act concerning agriculture; relating to the Kansas department of agriculture; certain fees, authorizing the Kansas secretary of agriculture to collect a fee for processing paper documents. See www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/documents/sb60_02_0000.pdf.

SB 20: An act concerning financial institutions; relating to certain acts under the administration of the state bank commissioner. See www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/sb20/.

H Sub for SB 51: An act concerning controlled substances; the state board of pharmacy; relating to scheduling of controlled substance analogs, controlled substances and new drugs; emergency scheduling. See www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/sb51/.

HB 2313: An act concerning the Kansas lottery; dealing with lottery ticket vending machines; repealing the lottery sunset. See www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/hb2313/.

HB 2232: An act concerning adult care homes; relating to electronic monitoring. See www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/documents/hb2232_00_0000.pdf.

SB 68: An act concerning health and healthcare; relating to hospitals; enacting the Kansas lay caregiver act. See www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/sb68/.

HB 2353: An act concerning state contracts and purchases; relating to purchases of products and services from not-for-profit entities; employment of persons with disabilities. See http://kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/HB2353/.

Coming up in the Kansas Legislature
This week, watch for the Medicaid expansion bill to hit the Senate floor. If it passes through the Senate, the bill will then be sent to the governor.

Republicans in the Senate have said they will wait to act on an education finance formula until the House addresses it first. Conversations as to how to solve this issue are underway, with many ideas being introduced. A bill has been proposed this week in the Kansas House, and we expect action on that bill to begin next week.

A tax plan to restore the revenue in Kansas has not yet been enacted. Previously in the session, the House put forth and passed a tax bill, which then passed through the Senate. The bill essentially repealed Gov. Brownback’s “march to zero” tax experiment. The governor vetoed the bill, after which the House overrode his veto. The Senate failed to override by just three votes. A new tax plan should be coming soon from the Senate side.

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a time to reflect on women’s contributions to history and to the present, the inaugural holiday beginning in the United States in 1987. Join us this month in standing with and celebrating women in Kansas, across the nation, and the across the world. Read more at http://womenshistorymonth.gov/.

Local activist and others take a new look at the Emmett Till case

KCK man persistently works on advancing civil rights hate-crimes enforcement
Window on the West
Opinion column

by Mary Rupert

The Rev. Wheeler Parker, in the Kansas City area recently for a church conference, was surprised when he heard on the news that an accuser of Emmett Till had changed her story.

Parker was a cousin of Emmett Till who went on the train with him from Chicago to Mississippi in 1955 to visit relatives. While at a store in Mississippi, Emmett Till allegedly whistled at a white woman. The news that the woman recanted her statement that Till grabbed her came out earlier this year.

Till, 14 years old at the time, was the victim of a lynching, brutally kidnapped and murdered. The Emmett Till death is considered to be one of the incidents that launched the civil rights movement in America. Parker was a teenager with Emmett at the time the woman originally told authorities that she had been assaulted, and some are wondering if the decades-old case now can be solved.

“Of course, it was good news for me to hear,” Parker said in an interview during his visit to Kansas City. “Now people can see Emmett Till in a different light than 60 years ago.”

For 60 years, some people thought that Emmett “got what he deserved,” but now it turns out that the woman lied, he added.

“Now America knows the truth – he did nothing to assault her,” Parker said. “So we’re glad to get that closure.”

Maybe, he added, if they can get that information from her, the authorities can get more information on the case from her. Most of those sorts of cases are never solved, and some people in the past have got away with crimes, he said. He and some others in the case support immunity for the woman in exchange for her information.

The woman in the case is now in her 80s, and the others involved in the Till case are senior citizens, as well.

A minister in the Pentecostal Church of God, Parker said people are called to forgive. However, he added that “we can’t afford to forget.”

Besides sparking the civil rights movement, the Till case greatly affected all the individuals involved. Till’s mother went back to school, got her master’s degree and dedicated her life to doing good because of what happened to her son, he said.

“It changed me, I became a minister,” Parker said. He dedicated his life to doing good, “because you can never forget.”

Parker called for more outreach on civil rights issues on the part of the clergy. “We’ve got to have some outreach among pastors about what’s happening to our people,” Parker said.

With the Till Bill 2 – the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Reauthorization Act of 2016 – that Kansas City, Kansas, human rights activist Alvin Sykes has been working on, a mechanism has been set up to investigate cold civil rights hate crimes. Parker credited Sykes’ work in getting the bill passed last year.

Parker said this seeking after justice is Sykes’ calling in life. “This is his area of expertise,” Parker said. “He has a fire in his belly.

“I tip my hat to him,” Parker said. “He doesn’t give up.”

Said Sykes, “The poison of Emmett’s death didn’t overcome him (Parker); he used it for a very positive life.”

The changing landscape

Alvin Sykes (File photo)


The landscape is changing in different ways for Sykes and his efforts to solve old civil rights hate crimes in America.

Sykes, a human rights activist in Kansas City, Kansas, who is president of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, plans to meet with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, on Tuesday, March 28, in Washington, D.C., to discuss implementation of the Till Bill 2 at the Justice Department.

His work was not completed when the Till Bill passed Congress – it also needs to be implemented by the administration, which now has changed.

Sykes said he is asking the Justice Department to prioritize the Till Bill 2, and he wants to work with the attorney general’s office in developing a strategy for its implementation. Before, he said, there wasn’t much coordination between those working in the field and a strategy of how to implement it.

The main goal of the March 28 meeting is to open the lines of communication, he said. Some real issues may be discussed after the chief assistant attorney general for civil rights is appointed, he added.

Sykes is not just working on legislation in Washington, D.C., however. He also was working recently with State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., on Senate Bill 128 in the Kansas Senate. This bill could double the penalties for hate crimes. The bill has been introduced in previous years and had its third hearing this year.

With a possible hate-crime link to a recent shooting in Olathe, Kansas, there was renewed interest in this bill, according to Sykes. He said since most of the acts of bias-motivated crimes are not murders, but are lesser crimes such as vandalism or assault, a lot of times they are not prosecuted. By increasing the penalties for these crimes, it makes the clear statement they won’t be tolerated, he said. He’s working on other bills, as well.

For Sykes, much of his effort is all about finding the truth, and getting closure, after so many years.

“He has no ulterior motive,” Parker said. “He just wants to see.”

To see an earlier story, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/civil-rights-till-bill-reauthorization-passes-congress/.

Leader succeeded in business, voluntary efforts

Views
Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

I was saddened when I received a telephone call letting me know that Pat Sedlock had died Thursday, March 16. Pat had a very impressive record of business and voluntary contributions.

Pat once told me that she came to Kansas City sort of by accident. Her father was a construction worker who followed projects. The family came to Kansas City and their car broke down. They decided to stay here.

Pat was born in Ft. Dodge, Iowa. She attended Argentine High School and worked two jobs—in a dental office and as a carhop at Allen’s Drive-In. It was at Allen’s that she met her husband-to-be—Phil Sedlock. Pat recalled that Phil was “a good tipper.” Pat was a longtime volunteer with the March of Dimes organization. The fact that Phil was a polio victim inspired Pat to be involved. Pat and her husband owned and operated Sedlock Tow service and a service station on Central Avenue.

I recall the 1970s when Pat was part of group that met for morning coffee at the Colonial Cafeteria in the Wyandotte Plaza Shopping Center. The group would discuss community issues including politics. One of the members of this group was the Rev. Ron Holland, the father of our present mayor, Mark Holland. Ron Holland was pastor of Grandview United Methodist Church.

Pat was appointed to the Kansas City, Kansas, School Board following her volunteer efforts encouraging the public to accept the 1977 federal desegregation decision. She ran for mayor in 1979 against incumbent Jack Reardon. Although she lost, she did get a commitment from Mayor Reardon to study the form of city government. In 1982, after a year-long study, voters approved a change in city government from a patronage-riddled commissioner system to one with a professional administrator and council members from districts. I served on that study committee; the chairman of the committee was Dr. O. L. Plucker, the superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas, School District. The change in the form of government was a necessary first step that led to city-county government consolidation in 1997.

Pat founded a commercial real estate agency. Her daughter, Cherise Marie Sedlock, follows in that profession. Pat was a longtime member of Business West, serving on its board of directors. She received the Joe Maderak Award for Outstanding Community Service in 2015.

The funeral service for Patricia Louise Sedlock will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 1, at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, 1086 N. 94th St., Kansas City, Kan. Lunch will follow the service.

Persons may express condolences by visiting the Internet site www.marybutlermeyers.com.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.