SB 95 SOAR Act

[This bill amends the welfare reform legislation of the past two years to ameliorate some of its more damaging provisions. The legislation is proposed by our friends at Kansas Action for Children.]

Written testimony to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, February 7, 2017

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee — 

I am writing in support of the SB 95, the SOAR Act, because we believe it addresses some of the problems that arose with previous legislation.

A strong safety net, including TANF and SNAP, is important element of support for poorer Kansans. Recent Kansas policy is based on the assumption that getting needy families off of public assistance is itself proof that these families have lifted themselves out of poverty by work, but this claim isn't supported by the available data. As the statute stands now, people can be, and are, forced off of TANF rolls for low-paying service jobs, without a living wage, benefits, or chance of advancement. Such employment can even jeopardize their eligibility for KanCare. 

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SB 37 Dual Tier Voting

[Kansas law requires people registering to vote to produce proof of citizenship, usually a birth certificate. Federal law prohibits this, so Secretary of State Kris Kobach attempted to institute what has been called a “two-tiered” registration system, with people who have registered with the federal form (and therefore not required to present their birth certificate) only allowed to vote in federal elections, while being prohibited from voting in state elections. A federal court through this out before the November 2016 elections. This legislation attempts to address some of the complaints of the federal court, and thereby further codifying the two-tiered voting system.)

In front of the Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee, February 7, 2017

KIFA is appearing at this hearing because people of faith consider the right to vote to be an issue of justice, and because the mainline Christian, Jewish and Unitarian Universalist denominations have made clear that the protection and expansion of voting rights are moral issues.

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HB 2237 Rise Up Kansas!

This legislation is proposed by our friends at the Kansas Council for Economic Growth, and is meant to be a comprehensive solution to Kansas' ongoing (and self-imposed) budget and tax issues.  This testimony was delivered by KIFA's Board Chair, Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan.

In front of the House Committee on Taxation, February 7, 2017 

I am here today in support of comprehensive tax reform for Kansas.

 

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HB 2074 Campus Carry

Testimony in support of HB 2074, the “campus carry” bill

In front of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, February 1, 2017

My organization represents over 2500 people of faith and conscience throughout the state of Kansas. The people I work with, particularly clergy, are very concerned about the impact of concealed carry on the people who study and work at Kansas' public colleges and universities.

The statements of the main national denominational bodies on this issue concern the general issue of gun violence rather than campus carry in particular. But they decry the rising incidence of gun violence in society and urge legislative action to address it. For example, the United Methodist Church's Book of Resolutions says,

No appeals to individual autonomy are sufficient to justify our church's ignorance of this threat [of gun violence]. The need to prevent the incidence of firearm-related injury and death is an issue of increasing concern and a priority public health issue. The United Methodist Church is among those religious communions calling for social policies and personal lifestyles that bring an end to senseless gun violence.

The action-item section of the resolution calls for “the development of advocacy groups within local congregations to advocate for the eventual reduction of the availability of guns in society.”

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HB2064 KanCare Expansion

Testimony of Rabbi Moti Rieber in Support of HB 2064, establishing the KanCare Bridge to a Healthy Kansas program

Chairman Hawkins, members of the committee –

I am Executive Director of Kansas Interfaith Action – a statewide, multi-faith issue-advocacy organization that “puts faith into action” by educating, engaging and advocating on behalf of people of faith and the public regarding critical social and economic justice issues. 

The issue of access to affordable and quality health care has been a consistent concern for the faith community for many years now. We therefore call on our state legislature and governor to expand the KanCare program, so that 150,000 working and lower-income Kansans can get access to health care.

We take this position based on our commitment to Scriptural and moral values. In Genesis it says, “[everyone] is created in the image of God'; we take from this that access to health care should be universal. In Matthew it says, “what you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me,” from which we take that such care should not be limited based on ability to pay.

 

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HB 2018 Civil Asset Forfeiture

Testimony in Support of HB 2018, limiting civil asset forfeiture

[Currently law allows law enforcement to take property they suspect of being connected with a crime, but no conviction or even arrest is required. That is, a highway patrol officer could stop you, claim to believe your car or other personal possessions are connected with a crime (“hm, I smell pot smoke”) and take them, without even giving you a ticket. This is rife for abuse and it has been abused; it also (unsurprisingly) has a very large racial disparity. This bill require conviction before permanent forfeiture of property.]

In front of the House Judiciary Committee, January 24, 2017

 

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Letter to Legislators about Campus Carry

This is a letter that we sent to selected representatives when it looked that there might be a bill to delay the implementation of campus carry on the floor of the House.

Dear Representative:

I'd like to reach out to you about a bill that will probably be heard by the House this week.

The bill in question is H Sub SB 65, which designed to fix a loophole in the previous conceal carry law. We believe that an amendment will be proposed to postpone the onset date of “campus carry” for 1-2 years from its current 2017 date. I encourage you to support this amendment. 

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Testimony in opposition to SB 65, “carrying concealed handguns”

Good morning Madame Chair, members of the committee – my name is Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan. I am the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, as well as a board member of Kansas Interfaith Action, a statewide organization that brings faith voices together in support of vital issues of social, economic and environmental justice. I am also the convener of a new local organization called Heeding God's Call, which serves as the Kansas chapter of national organization that calls itself “the faith-based movement to prevent gun violence.”

I am here today speaking on behalf of a large number of faith leaders who are concerned about the loosening of gun regulation in our state and the proliferation of guns that has resulted. On this subject, as with so many others, we take as our starting point the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said 

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Testimony in opposition to HB 2612, “Refugee Absorptive Capacity Act”

Madame Chair, members of the committee -

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning. My name is Rabbi Moti Rieber, and I am Executive Director of Kansas Interfaith Action, a statewide, multi-faith organization that “puts faith into action” by educating, engaging and advocating on behalf of people of faith and the public regarding critical social, economic, and environmental justice issues. I am here today in opposition, in part, to HB 2612.

Refugee resettlement has been a hot topic for the past few months, and that has given the religious community a chance to weigh in. I'd like to share with you a few representative statements.

These statements start from and cite the scriptural verses that pertain to the issue, including the repeated admonition that we “not oppress a foreigner; for you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exo. 23:9) and Jesus' lesson that “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt. 25:35b).

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Testimony in opposition to HB 2466, “AN ACT concerning municipalities; relating to sanctuary ordinances and resolutions and the prohibition thereof.”

[Note: the first line of the states: "No city or county shall have in effect any ordinance, resolution, policy or procedure that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law."] 

House Judiciary Committee, Feb. 3, 2016

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee—

                 My name is Rabbi Moti Rieber, and I am Executive Director of Kansas Interfaith Action, a statewide, multi-faith organization that “puts faith into action” by educating, engaging and advocating on behalf of people of faith and the public regarding critical social, economic, and environmental justice issues. I am writing today in opposition to HB 2466.

The religious community’s support of the rights and dignity of immigrants, no matter their legal status, is well-sourced, both in Scripture and in the contemporary teachings and policies of the our religious traditions. In Hebrew scripture, we are directed to “love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33-34). Christian scripture reports that Jesus and his disciples were itinerants. When asked "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan, a foreigner who treated a badly beaten man as the foreigner would have wished to be treated (Luke 10:25-37). The Qur’an teaches doing “good to...those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet” (4:36). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country” (article 13.2). Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources call us to recognize the opportunities and challenges of human migration—caring for ourselves and our families, interacting with strangers, valuing diversity, and dealing with immigration systems. (Unitarian Universalist Association, Immigration as a Moral Issue: 2013 Statement of Conscience.)

 

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