Each week during the 2023 Kansas legislative session, we will provide Shawnee Mission area lawmakers the opportunity to share their thoughts about what is happening in the state capitol.
Below is this week’s submission from Republican Sen. Kellie Warren of Kansas Senate District 11 covering parts of Leawood and Overland Park.
The 2023 regular legislative session concluded on April 28th. It was the earliest conclusion to a session in recent memory. Though short it was impactful.
As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I led our committee and the Senate in working on many bills that received wide bipartisan support and became the law of Kansas. This itself is quite an accomplishment, since many Shawnee Mission Post readers in the Senate district I represent are eager to know if there are areas where the parties can work together to get things done.
I am proud to report that yes, it is still the case, and that the work of our committee played a big part in making that happen. Here are three key examples:
Extending statute of limitations on child sexual abuse
The best example of bipartisan cooperation was Senate Sub. for HB 2127.
It provides the victims of childhood sexual abuse the ability to pursue justice over a longer period of time. Specifically, the bill eliminates the statute of limitations for a criminal prosecution for childhood sexual abuse.
It also extends the time to file a civil action for recovery of damages resulting from childhood sexual abuse to either 13 years after the date the victim turns 18, or no more than three years after the date of a criminal conviction for a crime related to childhood sexual abuse.
As chair of the committee, I worked with stakeholders and legislators on both sides of the aisle to write the bill, and get it through the Legislature. The real credit, however, belongs to the survivors who had the courage to come forward and tell their stories. Their powerful testimony provided the impetus for everyone to craft the right bill and come up with the right solution.
Ultimately, the bill passed with unanimous votes in the Senate and House, and the governor signed it into law.
Combatting fentanyl and other crimes
Another example is Senate Bill 174. Again as chair ,I gathered bipartisan support for the bill.
This bill increases criminal penalties for certain crimes committed by convicted felons who use a firearm, and the bill also legalizes fentanyl testing strips to protect victims of those who illegally sell fentanyl, saving lives in the process, as well as increases criminal penalties for those who manufacture or distribute a controlled substance that it’s appearance or packaging is likely to be attractive to minors.
The “law and order” provisions of the bill include specifically criminalizing the act of battery against a health care provider, increasing the penalties for the unlawful manufacture of fentanyl, and adding domestic burglary and violation of a protection order to the list of crimes that a person can have the intent to commit when they commit burglary under the law.
It also allows the attorney general to prosecute theft, and racketeering and corruption that are committed in more than one county.
This new law aids Kansas in fighting illegal fentanyl, and balances the need to prosecute the illegal manufacturer or distributor of fentanyl while ensuring that those who are seeking to avoid using it are not prosecuted simply for having a testing strip.
Ultimately, it earned wide bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Kelly.
Cracking down on human smuggling
The last example I have space to mention that came through the Senate Judiciary Committee is HB 2350.
This bill, now law, allows Kansas to prosecute human smuggling. Right now, the southern U.S. border is porous. It is important Kansas do everything possible to not further the problem. One step is HB 2350, which defines and prohibits in Kansas law the crime of human smuggling.
Under this law, human smuggling means intentionally transporting, harboring, or concealing an individual into or within Kansas when the person knows that the individual is entering into or remaining in the United States illegally; benefits financially or receives anything of value; and knows that the individual being smuggled is likely to be exploited for the financial gain of another.
When initially passed, this common sense non-controversial bill had wide bipartisan majorities — 36-3 in the Senate and 96-26 in the House. Unfortunately, extreme groups who want open borders parroted misinformation about the bill, falsely stating it would somehow penalize good Samaritans and other bogus claims, and the governor chose to veto the bill.
Thankfully, both chambers of the legislature overrode her veto — earning Democratic support once again — and the bill will now become law.
As Chair of the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee I spent countless days negotiating and working with colleagues and stakeholders on these bills. Committee work and floor debate can all be viewed on YouTube. While the legislative process is rarely easy, it is critical work so that we not only enact law, but enact good law.
When I first filed my intention to run for the Legislature in 2018, I promised to fix problems by finding real solutions. Each of these bills keeps that promise. It is an honor to serve our community as the senator representing Kansas in Senate District 11.
Thank you for reading and please contact me with any questions.