May 31st, 2012

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New Kansas Law Encourages Hiring People With Disabilities

Topeka, KS

Kansas lawmakers were in the Capitol building in Topeka earlier this week passing a law that could help boost employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.

So wrote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in a 1932 dissenting opinion, helping coin the phrase “laboratories of democracy” that is frequently used when discussing the rights of individual states to enact laws under the 10th Amendment. The state of Kansas enacted a new law earlier this week that could serve to do just that for people with disabilities seeking employment.

Fresh off the long Memorial Day weekend, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback returned to Topeka and signed into law House Bill 2453, which will provide companies seeking government contracts with incentives that would encourage them to employ people with disabilities.

Wichita Business Journal Web producer Emily Behlmann had the details from the governor’s office on how the law works. Those companies where employees with disabilities comprise at least 20% of the full-time workforce, among other criteria, can qualify for a certification that gives them “preference on state contracts if their bids are no more than 10 percent higher than the most competitive bid.”

Behlmann excerpts the part of the official release that credits Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, M.D., for spearheading efforts to get the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, and state Rep. David Crum, R-Augusta, passed by the state legislature. Lt. Gov. Colyer is quoted as saying:

When we traveled throughout Kansas listening to Kansans’ ideas on Medicaid reform, one consistent theme was the need for more work opportunities for persons with disabilities. Studies consistently show that those with disabilities who work lead happier and healthier lives. HB 2453 and other disability employment initiatives will assist in supporting Kansans with disabilities to live more productive, healthier, and independent lives.

Perhaps the incentives created by this new law is exactly what’s missing from the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposal for federal contractors to have 7% of their workforces comprised of people with disabilities? If all the concerns over protecting an employee’s right to privacy and costs associated with recruitment and tracking are proven to be secondary to the benefits of having employees with disabilities as an integral part of the workforce, would waving a similar carrot under the noses of businesses be effective on the national level? The democratic lab known as the state of Kansas will help us all find out.


Image by Marion Doss, used under its Creative Commons license.

One Response to “New Kansas Law Encourages Hiring People With Disabilities”

  1. Cal says:

    The democratic lab known as the state of Kansas will help us all find out.

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