Good policy requires continual learning and correcting the mistakes of your past, while anticipating and planning for the brightest future you can envision. Supporting progressive ideals will help set Kansas on a path toward prosperity and increased quality of life for all of its residents. Outlined here are some of the issues Derek will prioritize when serving as a State Representative.
Medicaid expansion in Kansas is long overdue. Thousands of people have foregone important medical procedures or gone needlessly into debt due to the inaction of our recent leadership. Kansas has lost multiple hospitals in rural areas that would have been saved if Medicaid had been expanded, which puts further strain on the remaining hospitals. Expanding Medicaid in Kansas will result in a physically and financially healthier population, and should be done as quickly as possible.
Prescription medicine is a daily reality for many Kansans. The for-profit healthcare industry has learned that they can charge exorbitant prices for necessary medication and consumers have no choice but to pay. Placing price limits on critical medication such as insulin is a key component to maintaining public health.
Kansas is one of only 18 states that taxes grocery items. At 6.5%, it has the second highest grocery tax rate in the US. In Wichita there is an additional 1% local tax, which means we pay 7.5% in taxes on groceries. As a critical expense, Kansas should follow the lead of the majority of states and exempt groceries from sales tax.
All children born in Kansas should be loved and wanted. A comprehensive reproductive health platform includes mandating scientifically accurate sexual education in an age-appropriate manner and teaching the necessity of consent. Birth control and contraceptives should be affordable and available to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The state should not place restrictions or undue burdens on a pregnant person who wishes to terminate a pregnancy before viability.
The Kansas foster care system has gone through recent reforms in an attempt to improve outcomes for the children involved and increase accountability. Further efforts should be made to ensure that children under state supervision do not end up neglected or forgotten.
Minimum wage in Kansas hasn't increased since 2010, despite inflation and cost of living increasing dramatically over the same time period. The goal of a minimum wage is to ensure those working a full time job (40 hours a week) have the means to sustain themselves. By not adapting the minimum wage, Kansas has failed that goal. If elected, I would propose a new Kansas minimum wage of $12 per hour, with adjustments based on local cost of living. The new wage would also automatically increase based on inflation. This would create a minimum wage solution rather than a temporary fix.
Public and private sector unions are weaker now than they have been in decades. This correlates directly with the reduction of the middle class in Kansas. In order to revitalize the middle class in Kansas, I would protect our existing unions from the "death by a thousand cuts" which has been attempted over the last few decades, while making it easier and safer for new unions to be created when workers seek to organize their workplace.
Worker co-operatives are slowly gaining popularity in various industries as a means of prioritizing the well-being of workers. Co-ops give workers a say in critical decisions that otherwise would be made from the top down. Legislatively, an office within the department of labor would be created to help companies that want to transition into worker co-ops. In the event that a company is being sold, the workers of that company should have the first right of refusal to purchase the company. In this way we help protect workers who have dedicated years of their lives into building the business. The option for employee ownership protects communities from falling victim to outside investment firms that buy companies simply to sell off company assets, close the business, and pocket the profits - costing the community important jobs. Kansas can show real leadership and forward thinking by promoting worker co-ops to attract young talent to our state and keep our homegrown talent in Kansas.
Kansas should ensure the protection of all minority groups when it comes to employment, housing, and public accommodations. The existing non-discrimination laws should be amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity among the protected classes. Additionally, compliance with non-discrimination laws should be more rigorously enforced.
Renewable energy is necessary for the future of our country and species, and Kansas has done well expanding the portion of our power that is generated by wind energy. This is good policy which should be embraced and developed further by incentivizing companies and individuals to incorporate sustainable technologies in their daily operations. With Kansas' large prairies and high winds, we are positioned to become nationwide leaders in wind energy technology. We just need the political will to pursue it.
Having access to reliable high speed internet has become a necessity in modern America, as many are painfully realizing with the abrupt transition to online education for schoolchildren. The state should make access to quality internet a right, and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the entire population can access it. A promising method for acquiring internet in communities which the telecom industry refuses to serve is to establish municipal broadband services. The state should help muster resources and provide guidance for communities which wish to pursue this method of internet access.
Large corporations are continually pushing to blur the line between what a consumer can and can't do with a product they have already purchased. Right to repair legislation has been adopted in some states already, and Kansas stands to protect it's farming communities and consumers in general by enshrining Kansans right to repair.
Teaching is a consistently underappreciated and underpaid profession, despite it's critical importance in shaping our children's future. All teachers should be provided the resources they need without having to spend their own money on teaching supplies. Classroom sizes have also increased dramatically over time which decreases teaching outcomes while simultaneously making teacher's jobs more difficult. These are problems which are easily solved by correctly prioritizing school funding.
School funding in Kansas is designed to disproportionately benefit wealthy school districts. This results in a system which puts children that are already at a systemic disadvantage into a school which is under funded, setting up entire groups of children for failure. In order to remedy this, the gap between the most well funded and most poorly funded schools must be closed. A child's willingness to work hard and learn should be the primary factor in their ability to succeed, not their zip code.
Studies have shown that the single largest predictive factor of a child's future earning potential is whether or not they attended Pre-K. To date, only 3 states have implemented universal Pre-K systems. Kansas joining the vanguard with regards to Pre-K would not only be a boon to all children in the state, but it would also help make our public school system more equitable overall.
Kansas is one of only 8 states which has not legalized or decriminalized marijuana use. Kansas must accept the fact that legalization is the correct moral and financial choice to make for our state. In addition to legalization anyone currently involved in the justice system due to non-violent marijuana related crimes should be given early release and have their criminal records expunged.
Cash bail is an immoral system which we should no longer be supporting as a state. Either someone accused of a crime is a threat to society or they are not. As it exists today, cash bail enforces two distinct justice systems: one for those who can afford bail and one for those who cannot.
Mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes should not exist. Violent crimes, including sexual crimes, should have mandatory minimums. Kansas should terminate all contracts with for-profit prisons and ban their use within the state.
Kansas has overcrowded prisons. This is because too many people become imprisoned due to non-violent offenses and the state does not adequately support and prepare inmates when they leave prison, leading to severe rates of recidivism. Shifting the state's priorities on crime away from punishment and toward rehabilitation is the compassionate and fiscally responsible thing to do.