Gov. Laura Kelly signed into law bills responding to a rise in Kansas youth suicide and concerns that judges had authority to reduce prison sentences of adults convicted of sex crimes against children who were labeled an "aggressor" in cases.
The legislation creating a suicide prevention coordinator in the office of Attorney General Derek Schmidt was recommended by a task force that developed a framework for strengthening the state's response to evidence more young Kansans were killing themselves.
"In recent years, Kansas has seen a steady uptick in suicide among young people," Kelly said. "I’m pleased the Legislature took this step to reduce youth suicide. We must do more to raise awareness and support our young people with their mental health needs.”
Under House Bill 2290, the Kansas Legislature instructed the new coordinator to lead development and implementation of a website to promote youth well-being, provide training to deter youth suicide and to share information on prevention.
Kelly also signed Senate Bill 18 drafted in response to the decision by Leavenworth County Judge Michael Gibbens to order defendant Raymond Soden, 67, to prison for five years, instead of eight years dictated by state sentencing guidelines. The judge justified reduction of Soden's sentence because he determined the victims were participants in the crime because they were paid. The two victims were girls under 15 years old.
"I was deeply troubled when a Kansas judge viewed a child victim as an aggressor when an adult commits a sex crime. I’m pleased to sign this bill eliminating the ability to reduce sentences for sex crimes in these cases," the governor said.
The new law blocks Kansas judges from reducing the length of prison sentences recommended in Kansas sentencing guidelines when the victim of a sexually violent offense was younger than 14 and the offender an adult, even if the victim was considered a participant in the act.
Kelly signed House Bill 2223 to require the Kansas Legislature's auditing division, in collaboration with the Kansas Department of Commerce, to analyze and report on major economic development incentive programs operated by the state.
The governor also authorized local sales tax elections in Wabaunsee, Thomas, Russell, Jackson and Dickinson counties. Under House Bill 2140, Kelly also retroactively affirm a sales tax vote that occurred in Finney County. The bill included a sales tax exemption on sales of gold bullion and coins.