Capitol Update: Holscher says legislature can’t let bills on sexual harassment, abuse by law enforcement get lost amid long to-do list

Rep. Cindy Holscher.

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Cindy Holscher, Rep. Jan Kessinger and Sen. Pat Pettey are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Holscher’s filing:

So much to do and so little time. That could have been the motto this past week in the legislature. While many citizens may not have realized it, this was the final week individuals could make bill requests. So, on the last day there was a flood of folders on the House floor – signifying that numerous requests for bills had been made.

Prior to the start of this year’s session, constituents as well as business leaders provided feedback regarding some of the issues they felt deserved the attention of the Legislature. Apart from education funding and the budget, topics mentioned included:

  • Transparency issues – including elimination of the “Gut & Go” tactic as well as well as the discontinuation of anonymous bills
  • Net Neutrality
  • Compensation for the wrongfully imprisoned
  • Easing voter registration and access to voting

Fortunately, all of the above have had a bill in some form addressing the named issue. The Democratic caucus introduced several pieces of legislation dealing with transparency. In addition, I was proud to co-sponsor legislation with my colleague, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, that would prevent anonymous bills.

But there were a couple issues that had not been brought forward that seemed important:

  • Sexual harassment legislation. After the extensive press coverage recently of sexual harassment in the Capitol, the Women’s Foundation made several recommendations to the Legislature dealing with this serious topic. Many of those recommendations were of the nature that that could be addressed internally by policy. However, there was one important piece that required legislation: that secret settlements will not be allowed and taxpayer funds cannot be used for settlements. HB 2695 encapsulates these important provisions and was introduced this week. I’m pleased to report that over a dozen other legislators co-sponsored with me. While there is not much time left for committee meetings, hopefully our leadership will feel this topic is important enough to grant a hearing.
  • Abuse of power issues by law enforcement. Recently, allegations have been made regarding abuse of power by police officers accused of coercing females into sexual relations by utilizing threats of retaliation against their family members, etc… Minority females in poorer neighborhood have often been the target of this type of activity. Upon investigation, it was determined that Kansas law prohibits law enforcement from engaging in sexual relations with those in custody, but the same protection is not granted to detainees. In other words, there is no protection for individuals stopped in their neighborhoods. On Monday I was pleased to introduce HB 2621, a bill that covers this “gap” in the law. This bill is extremely important in extending protection to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Of course, much heavy lifting is still to come regarding education funding and the budget. But we need to ensure these other serious issues are addressed. The Legislature has been able to take time to hear a bill on erecting a statue honoring Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower; hopefully these bills regarding sexual harassment and abuse of powers will get their equal time.

*As of the time this was submitted, HB 2621 had been granted a hearing; no word yet on HB 2695.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you; please know you can reach me at: cindyforkansas@gmail.com, or follow me on Facebook at Cindy Holscher for Kansas.