Captiol update: Legislature passes revised ‘Hard 50’ law

In an effort to keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we feature update columns from northeast Johnson County’s elected officials in the legislature. The legislature was in special session this week as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, and northeast Johnson County Rep. Melissa Rooker sends us this overview of what transpired:

Rep. Melissa Rooker
Rep. Melissa Rooker

As previously reported, the legislature was called into special session this week to address the Kansas “Hard 50” sentencing law in order to ensure that it aligns with the US Constitution and a recent US Supreme Court ruling (Alleyne v. United States). We gaveled in at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning (Sept. 3) and took care of the required formalities to open the session. Once the bill (HB 2002) was introduced, it was referred to the judiciary committee. The House stood in recess to allow the judiciary committee to hold a public meeting and hear testimony on the bill. Our own district attorney, Steve Howe, was in attendance to show support for the bill. In judiciary, the bill was amended to define the procedures for convening a jury in cases that have previously been decided, then voted to send the bill back to the House. The House reconvened and voted to suspend the rules in order to move the bill to emergency final action (a procedural move that allowed us to take immediate action). On a vote of 122-0 we sent the bill to the Senate for consideration.

Because there was only one bill to consider, the House was able to move through the process in the course of one day. House members spent much of Wednesday on standby as the Senate walked through a similar process on their side. In addition to considering the Hard 50 bill, the Senate spent Tuesday and much of Wednesday engaged in the confirmation process for gubernatorial appointments. Most were routine, however the appointment of Caleb Stegall to the Kansas Court of Appeals was the first made under the new statute for judicial selection. Senators had the opportunity to review the application and meet with Mr. Stegall to question him. He was approved on a vote of 32-8.

Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, we received news that the Senate had voted 40-0 to approve the HB 2002 without amendments. At that point the House adjourned Sine Die for the 2013 special session. We will meet again on January 13, 2014 to open the 2014 legislative session.

I will spend the next few months in the district, attending meetings and community events, and enjoy the opportunity to connect with constituents. If you have questions, comments or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me.