The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization, promotes political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government, and takes action on selected governmental issues. The League does not support or oppose any political party or candidate.
Public Policy Positions
Child Care (1968, 1987, 1991, 1995, reviewed 2009)
The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County supports available, affordable and quality childcare. The League recognizes that in order to accomplish these goals, the following provisions are essential:
To provide availability, we support:
- Child care and parent education programs which allow teenage parents to remain in school and which also teaches them parenting skills
- Social and Rehabilitation Services Department (SRS) reimbursement for child care a t the level of actual cost and available to all children;
- Public policy which encourages public-private partnerships and increases the role of business in the productivity and human resources issue; and
- Business and community involvement to make child care arrangements more adaptable to the needs of the parents.
To provide for afford ability we support the implementation of childcare scholarships, financial supports and subsidies for low-income families.
To ensure quality, we support:
- Public policy which increases public and consumer education efforts, such as development of a brochure and educational meetings in the community to assist parents in evaluating child care options and in understanding quality standards.
- Stronger support for and financial assistance to the enforcement agencies which are responsible for child care registration, licensing and regulations to ensure timely and thorough inspections;
- Innovative child care, early intervention and prevention programs which assist children who are at risk of being abused and neglected;
- Enhancement of training activities for the daycare providers and child care staffs;
- Quality recognition programs for excellence in day care, and
- Parent education programs.
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Criminal Justice position proposed revision
Edit date: November 30, 2020
At State Council in April 1972, the statement of position from the Adult Corrections study was approved. An update of that position was requested by the State Board in June 1973 enabling the League to respond to state priorities. The updated position was completed in December 1976. In legislation supported by the LWVUS, Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, which did not pass, this bill would have reduced federal sentences for non-violent drug offenders. This legislation aimed to give judges discretion to reduce juvenile life-without-parole sentences after 20 years, allow compassionate release of more people over the age of 60, and essentially ban juvenile solitary confinement in the federal system. At Council 2020 a committee began the work of updating the position. The committee utilized a list of issues, examined position of other states as well as National to write the currently proposed position for Convention 2021.
STATEMENT OF POSITION IN BRIEF
The LWVK supports all governmental units of the State of Kansas in their responsibility to provide a humane program of rehabilitation for adult offenders that would integrate them back into society as productive and successful citizens and thus protect the total community. The community is engaged in the progress of re-entry. The program would include adequate funding for diagnosis and treatment; work opportunities that are meaningful and reimbursed; vocational training; and a full range of educational opportunities. The LWVK opposes capital punishment.
LWVK supports a “Bill of Rights” for offenders. These rights include:
- Human dignity
- Personal security
- Decent living conditions including nutritious meals
- Legal Counsel
- Adequate medical care
LWVK supports the development of alternatives to incarceration. These include:
- Community based corrections and rehabilitation programs within existing institutions before new prison construction is approved. LWVK opposes private prisons.
- A criminal justice system that is just, effective, equitable, transparent, and that fosters public trust and community engagement at all stages, including policing practices, pre-trial procedures, sentencing, incarceration, and re-entry.
- The elimination of systemic bias, including the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of marginalized communities.
- Practices that promote safety for both public safety officers and the communities they serve.
- Collaboration is the goal among judicial systems, citizens, and law enforcement agencies throughout every stage of the criminal justice system.
- Collaboration is encouraged between citizens and community based social and mental health agencies.
- Reliance on evidence-based research in decision-making about public safety programs and policies (including scheduled, periodic audits of program and policy effectiveness) is the standard.
- Encourage elimination of the stigma of arrest /incarceration.
- Emphasis on restorative justice is the goal.
Public Safety Practices
LWVK supports improvements in the present system such as:
- Ensure that crime prevention and promotion of public safety are the primary roles of state and local law enforcement agencies.
- Training to identify mental health conditions, disabilities, or substance abuse/addiction in accused persons, and support treatment from appropriate medical and mental health professionals with the goal of diverting those individuals into treatment instead of jail.
- Ensure active recruitment and employment of qualified women and minority personnel for prison staffs, probation, and parole staffs.
- Ensure transparency and accountability of arresting practices using technology and cameras.
- Require all officers to render first aid to people who have been injured as a result of police action.
- Establish de-escalation protocols (the use of time, distance, communications and available resources whenever it is safe to do so) and anti-bias training and ensure that all staff are provided with this training.
- Authorize minimal use of force during police encounters with the public and consider deadly force only when necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury.
- Mandatory pre-sentence investigations conducted by probation and parole staff, or by contracts with local agencies for all felon and misdemeanants,
- No state prison incarcerations for misdemeanants.
- Ensure alternative non-discriminatory programs and facilities for women.
- Provide accountability via independent citizen oversight of practices and publicly available data on officer conduct.
- Disseminate information to the public which would encourage community confidence about policies, recruitment, procedures for complaint/commendation, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens and officers in interactions with each other.
- Conduct comprehensive background checks to include such history as PTSD, domestic violence, sex offenses and affiliations with domestic terrorist groups, for all applicants to law enforcement positions.
- Provide sufficient psychological services ad counseling to meet stress-related needs of personnel.
- Establish recruitment efforts and staffing that reflects the diversity of the community served.
- Encourage use of volunteer assistance such as counseling, support, help with family contact, to probationers, inmates, parolees, and their families.
PROVISION OF ADEQUATE RESOURCES
- Provide funding for adequate numbers of public defenders to ethically represent indigent defendants.
- Provide prosecutors, defense attorneys court counselors and judges with regular training on alternatives to incarceration including community-based treatment, pre-trial diversion programs and restorative justice practices.
- Recognize that mental health conditions and substance abused/addictions are public health issues, not criminal in nature, and develop systems to respond accordingly, including drug courts, mental health evaluations and court-ordered treatment procedures and other methods of ensuring public safety without penal incarceration of such individuals.
- Revise probation and parole guidelines to eliminate systemic bias based upon race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and economic status.
- Develop programs supporting successful re-entry into the community of individuals leaving correctional institutions.
- Ensure that no person suffers discrimination due to race, religion, ability, ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status through development of risk assessment tools to prevent biased outcomes.
- Ensure no person suffers discrimination through development of risk assessment tools to prevent biased outcomes for any person awaiting trial.
- Follow a presumption of Own Recognizance bonds for nonviolent, non-person offenses.
- Provide safety for detained individuals through segregation of detainees based upon severity of charge and nature of offense charged.
- Implement work-release and home visitation procedures whenever appropriate to avoid loss of employment, housing, and family relationships.
- Provide necessary medical, mental health and substance use treatment to detainees with known conditions requiring the same.
- Develop additional alternatives to cash bail bonds to minimize disruption of employment, housing, and family relationships whenever possible.
- LWVK believes that alternatives to imprisonment should be explored and utilized, taking into consideration the circumstances and nature of the crime.
- LWVK opposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. Consider the individual circumstances of the person charged and the nature of the crime, rather than mandatory minimum sentences.
- First time offenders could be placed on probation or in a drug treatment program.
- Rehabilitation – educational development opportunities, vocational training, job skills and living skills should be embedded in corrections programs so that offenders have the skills to be successful upon release from prison.
The LWVK supports the abolition of the death penalty in Kansas.
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The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County (LWV) supports well planned, comprehensive economic development for the city and county in order to grow and prosper as the capital of Kansas. The LWV supports both city and county involvement in adequately funding economic development. For example, “Go Topeka”, the group formed to create economic development, should continue to be financially and otherwise supported by the city council and county commission. If necessary, the ¼ cent sales tax beginning in 2003 should be continued when that tax expires.
The LWV recommends development and implementation of a strategic plan providing for:
A. property acquisition and utility installation in areas desirable to existing as well as new businesses,
industries and non-profits, consistent with good zoning concepts;
B. education in the form of training or re-training for employment;
C. the goal of well-paying jobs, with priority being given to applications for public funds, which
propose payment of above average wages and benefits for those who will be employed as a result
of economic development, and
D. assessment and public reports of results of economic development expenditures.
Annexation should be aggressively pursued by the city, with cooperation of the county commission. Topekans should urge the state legislature to revise present annexation statutes to make it easier for the city to annex contiguous developed or developing areas.
LWV supports the active participation of the state in helping its capital city develop economically, which development, in turn, will accrue to the best interests of the state. State revenues for economic development, currently including lottery revenues, should be more generously allocated to Topeka, the capital city.
The LWV reaffirms its position of support for a single metropolitan government in Shawnee County, which should encourage and support economic development.
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City of Topeka Government (1971, Update 1987, Technical Revision 1989, Revision 1995)
The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County supports a strong executive in city government with clear responsibility for appointment and supervision of administrative personnel.
The League supports the separation of policy-making procedures from administration. We support district representation in electing council members. More than three council members should be elected with overlapping terms.
The League favors the eventual consolidation of city/county government, using the county as a basis for government. In support of future city and county consolidation, the League advocates:
- Cooperation and consolidation between city and county departments and agencies whenever possible and practical;
- Consolidation of City and county Parks and Recreation Departments;’
- Consolidation of Topeka Police Department and Shawnee County Sheriff Departments;
- More rapid annexation ** of areas outside city limits, and
- Reinstitution of the intergovernmental Coordination Council or another Agency where various units of government may plan and act together.
Annexation is an essential consideration in the development and implementation of and use, growth management, transportation and economic development plans for Topeka and Shawnee County. Kansas Statutes Annotated (KSA) 12-520 et seq permit the City of Topeka to annex tracts of land through three types of annexation procedures: unilateral, island and county-approved. The League of Women Voters of Topeka Shawnee County (LWVTSC) endorses these procedures as stated in current statutes. Because of possible conflicts, The LWVTSC believes that city and county officials should add the following to the annexation procedures:
- All potential stakeholders should share with one another specific information about the proposed tracts of land to be annexed as soon as they are identified, so that the effects of annexation may be considered very early in the negotiation of an annexation agreement. The stakeholders will write and sign an annexation agreement during a unilateral, island and county-approved annexation procedure, particularly during a unilateral procedure.
- The annexation stakeholders should obtain knowledge about and skills in principled negotiation so as to manage the negotiations among themselves and help reach consensus on the contents of each annexation agreement.
- The annexation stakeholders, if deemed unable to reach an agreement through principled negotiation, should use an outside person(s) who has knowledge, skills and experience in certified mediation to manage the conflict and achieve a consensus among stakeholders on the contents of each annexation agreement.
This policy position of the LWVTSC on annexation should minimize the time, energy, litigation and cost of annexation for all stakeholders. This would better enable Topeka and Shawnee County to practice orderly and smart growth.
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The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County supports:
- County Commissioners spending a greater amount of time on policy matters, including strategic planning, and less on administrative details;
- An appointed County Administrator
- A three-member full-time Commission, if a County Administrator is appointed and the duties of the Commission become mainly policy-making;
- Election by districts;
- Elimination of elected positions, including the sheriff, with the appointment of a county-wide lay enforcement officer with professional qualifications;
- Appointment of advisory groups broadly representative of the community to address specific policy issues;
- A single metropolitan government as a long-term goal, with short-term goals of cooperation and consolidation of city-county government operations where feasible; and
- Reinstitution of the Inter-Governmental Council with a paid staff.
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The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County supports exploration of additional ways of financing local government. These include but are not limited to: contracting for services, sales tax, franchise tax outside the city limits and raising user fees.
Real property within the city and county should be assessed on a continuing basis. State and federally funded properties in Topeka and Shawnee County should not be taxed locally, but there should be a user fee charged for police and fire protection. Tax exempt properties should be encouraged to pay fees in-lieu of taxes for police and fire protection.
Citizen input should be sought in planning the periodic review of priorities through well-publicized hearing prior to budget adoption.
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The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County supports the following for the City of Topeka;
- Programs and policies to provide a decent home and a suitable living environment for every family in our area;
- Enforcement for the housing code and fair housing ordinance;
- Strict enforcement of anti-discrimination laws which provide equal opportunities for purchase or rental of housing and for borrowing money for housing;
- Adequate staff and funds for the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development and the Division of the Environmental Code Compliance to administer and enforce the housing code. This code should contain enforceable standards to protect against neighborhood blight;
- Periodic review of local housing codes, building codes and condemnation procedures for possible reform;
- A combination of approaches to solve the problem of providing affordable housing for low and moderate-income persons. These include, but are not limited to, planning for low-income single adults; public-private partnerships; housing rehabilitation; support services for low-income persons, such as budgeting, child care and employment counseling;
- Close cooperation between the city and the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing to accomplish these goals and to make full use of federal housing programs.
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The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County believes that land must be regarded as a resource of the community to be preserved and protected, as well as a commodity to be bought and sold. Therefore, the League believes that the goals of the Topeka and Shawnee County Metropolitan City and County Planning Commissions should be to promote a system of long-range planning and implementation which integrates ecological, economic, physical and social needs, instead of merely projecting present-into-future growth. The League agrees with the current multi-purpose use of the Kansas Expocentre complex.
The League believes that a stable core residential area is necessary to the health and growth of Downtown Topeka. Therefore, we support efforts to preserve, renovate, rebuild and add to core city residential areas.
The League of Women Voters supports the preservation of historic sites. Where expansion threatens historic sites, the League supports a careful review conducted by appropriate planning agencies with consideration given to the carious economic and historical factors.
The League sees the following as seriously affecting land use and development and deserving special consideration by local government and the planning agency agencies;
- School closings;
- Urban sprawl versus compact city development
- Zoning or other ordinances regulating land use;
- Scenic easements;
- Open ordinances;
- Tax increment financing; and
- Transportation planning
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The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County supports adequate financing of Shawnee County Public Schools. The League favors and increase of state aid to the local communities to support education and changes in state aid so that urban areas are treated more equitably.
The Boards of Education should avail themselves of whatever federal aid to education should become available. The League favors an increase in teacher salaries and endorses the principle of equal pay for equal work.
The League favors a flexible lone-range educational plan for the community. We note the need to provide for equality of opportunity, for a wide diversity of individual needs and for using new education ideas. We endorse the principal of continuing planned improvement of physical facilities of the Shawnee County School Systems to meet the needs of the school population.
The League believes that equal education is dependent upon racial and socioeconomic integration. The League believes that the following elements are necessary in any plan:
- Citizen involvement in formulation and implementation;
- Inclusion of all schools in one county-wide school district;
- Provision for the enhancement of educational activities and achievements of all students of Shawnee county; and
- Reasonable stability and continuity.
The League believes that formal, continuing citizen participation is necessary to maintain a system of equal education that is responsive to the needs of the total community.
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The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County supports implementation of KS 65-3405 requiring Shawnee County to create, review and update a solid waste management plan. We believe that the county should invite and include citizens to participate in the planning process.
As the Shawnee County Health Agency is responsible for waste management regulatory functions, sufficient personnel and funds should be provided to that program.
The League believes that waste reductions are essential in the management of solid and hazardous wastes. A separation of recyclables at curbside is advocated for recycling and reuse. Such management options should be considered regularly, as markets and sales become viable. Activities dealing with waste reduction reuse and recycling should be an integral part of a Shawnee County Waste Management Plan as determined by the Shawnee County Commission.
Any processing or disposal facility should be evaluated for its public health, social, environmental and economic impact on the county by the responsible regulatory agency. Citizen input should be encouraged.
The League supports such funding sources as user charges, property taxes, volume-based rates and grants. The County Commissioners should regulate the rates for collection, transportation and processing and disposal services to ensure fairness and equity of costs and quality of services for all urban and rural residents and businesses.
The Commissioners should continue to support in a county wide education program including Keep America Beautiful and Shawnee County Recycling. The Recycling Department should have sufficient personnel and funds to carry out its responsibilities.
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The League of Women Voters of Topeka-Shawnee County promotes a health care system that provides access to comprehensive quality health care for all citizens and that controls health care costs.
The League believes that public health services play a principal role in assuring and maintaining a healthy community. Cooperation and coordination of the public and private health care sectors are essential. In our county, public health needs are met primarily through the Shawnee County Health Agency. The League supports efforts that enable the Health Agency to meet the needs of clients form the diverse population of the county.
Role of the Shawnee County Health Agency: The role of the county government should be the recognition of health problems and unmet needs and the assurance that health standards are kept high. The Shawnee County Health Agency should assume responsibility for coordinating programs with other public and private health care providers.
It is critical that the Health Agency identify and evaluate health service problems within the county by data collection, monitoring changes in health trends, and developing programs to meet identified needs. In the area of policy development the Health Agency should prioritize health needs, set achievable and measurable goals, and evaluate results. Long-term plans will require the involvement of private health care providers, community organizations and individuals along with the Health Agency.
Administration: Recognizing the responsibility of the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) to provide for health care for Shawnee County citizens, the League advocates that a member of the BCC serve on the Health Agency Board as a nonvoting member. The primary responsibility of the BCC should be approval of the budget which would indicate support of proposed programs.
The Health Agency Board would be advisory to both the Health Officer/Administrator and the BCC. While funding for the Federally Qualified Health Center is available, the Health Agency Board remains a governing board for the primary care services.
The Board should consist of an uneven number of members with three-year staggered terms. The board should be comprised of user/consumers of the health agency services, representatives of private health care providers, and persons from the community-at-large. No member should serve more than three (3) consecutive terms.
The Board should assist the Health Officer/Administrator in preparation of a budget for adoption by the BCC. Staffing and program initiation or termination should be reviewed by the Board. The Board should cooperate with the Health Officer/Administrator and staff in setting yearly and long-term goals and evaluating those goals.
The Health Officer /Administrator should be chief executive of the Shawnee County Health Agency and be the authority in setting policy and protocol. Minimum qualifications for this position should be an MD and MPH. The Health Officer/Administrator should have responsibility for maintaining the improving health of the county through health care services that address the present and future needs of clients, a staff of trained and experienced workers, and a budget that allows for improvement or expansion of programs, not merely continuation of the same programs.
Budget: The annual budget should include adequate funding to fulfill the primary responsibility for public health, and to meet community health needs. Salaries should be comparable to similar positions in the community. Public health services should be a priority for funding by the BCC.
Financing: The League endorses financing of the Agency through a combination of taxes, client fees, insurance payments, and grants. The League agrees that no person should be denied services because of an inability to pay; therefore, the BCC should not be over-reliant on client fees for financing. There should be a clearly identifiable fee schedule provided to clients. Every effort should be made to utilize computer programs and staff to achieve maximum collection of accounts receivable.
Primary Care: The Health Agency staff, the board and the BCC should make provisions for funding for primary care when funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers is no longer available.
Health care provided by the Health Agency should be located conveniently for those needing the services. Therefore, short-and long-term plans should incorporate opportunities for expanded services for children, adolescents and adults through rental, purchase or construction of additional space. Clinic hours should be extended to times that are convenient for a working clientele.
Health Education: Health education is a major thrust in public health and should be a major component of all Health Agency programs. The health educator should serve at a level equal to program managers within the Health Agency to provide expertise in planning for health promotion and protection, disease prevention, and access to service.
Home Health Services: The League believes it is imperative the Health Agency maintain home health services. Fees should not prohibit access to care so that clients’ independence is not impaired.
Environmental Health Services: Believing strongly in the protection and maintenance of our natural resources, the League endorses a county system of rules, regulations and standards to prevent and eliminate environmental conditions that impair or are hazardous to the health and safety to Shawnee County residents. The Health Agency should be responsible for testing, inspections and implementation of county environmental resolutions.
The League believes that the Health Agency should inspect licensed and registered day care facilities. Educational opportunities for restaurant and food retail inspectors and for food handlers should be provided.
Dental Care: Recognizing dental care as an important component of health care, the League encourages the Health Agency to develop a program coordinating dental services to meet the needs of clients.
Mental Health Services: The League believes that the emotional and mental health of clients is as important as their physical well-being. The Health Agency should continue to address the mental health needs of its clients and should facilitate referrals for those requiring more intensive mental health care.
Volunteer Program: A volunteer program of professionals and lay persons is beneficial to the Health Agency. The League supports its continuation and expansion.
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The Local Mental Health Committee affirms the statement of positions forwarded by the State Mental Health Committee adopted by the state LWV on April 28, 2007 and found in the state position under Social Policy.
As it relates to patient care and outcomes, it is felt that the system would benefit from a greater and continued oversight at the local and state level. This oversight could be by an independent group such as the LWV. If the oversight function is to be effective, they will need the ability to look at basic reports and records of the local mental health center(s). It seems that the system of care is broken. Providers do not appear to be working to establish a consumer driven, accountable system. It is difficult for patients to negotiate the system.
The Committee believes the mental health system should be consumer driven.
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See also: LWV Kansas Position Statements
See also: LWVUS Public Policy Positions (In Brief)
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