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Gov. Laura Kelly Signs Sexual Abuse Reform Bill

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By Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

 

TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill unanimously passed by the Kansas Legislature to remove the statute of limitations on criminal prosecution and extend opportunity to file lawsuits related to allegations of childhood abuse.

A coalition of women joined with legislators to keep the bill alive during the 2023 session when it appeared on the verge of falling by the wayside. The statutory changes were placed in a rewrite of House Bill 2127, which then passed the Senate 40-0 in March and the House 120-0 in April.

“This bill would not be possible without the tireless work of survivors across the state who fought for their voices to be heard. I thank them for their bravery,” Kelly said Monday in a statement.

Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, said it was important to remove in Kansas law the statute of limitations on prosecuting alleged childhood sexual abuse. Going forward, the statute would treat these cases in the same manner as allegations of murder or terrorism.

In terms of lawsuits seeking financial damages, the legal standard in Kansas would allow filing of cases within 13 years of a victim turning 18 years of age or within three years after criminal conviction of an offender.

“It has been a tough and long-fought battle,” Holscher said. “This is breakthrough legislation that will keep our children and communities safer.”

Meanwhile, Kelly also signed House Bill 2016 to provide a pathway for businesses to address potential Americans for Disabilities Act flaws with access to company websites. The idea of the bill was to deter “abusive” lawsuits filed against businesses by out-of-state law firms seeking financial settlements of purported problems with ADA accessibility to those sites. Critics contended the initial version of the bill would have undermined legitimate suits.

Kelly signed a compromise bill enabling Attorney General Kris Kobach to file countersuits challenging legitimacy of cases brought against Kansas businesses. Kansas businesses would have 90 days to correct information presented or absent from websites.

The reform wouldn’t prevent a person from asserting a right to equal access to public accommodations guaranteed by the ADA, said Rep. Fred Patton, a Topeka Republican and attorney.

Kelly formally signed the ADA and child abuse bills Friday, but didn’t release that information until Monday in a statement outlining her signing of three relatively minor bills.

Kelly approved House Bill 2160, which was developed to make it easier for cotton producers to haul large loads to market. Concerns about adoption of state law out of compliance with federal safety standards and risking $17 million in federal funding were resolved during development of the bill.

She welcomed House Bill 2326 to extend the life of the state’s scrap metal law. Given the flurry of catalytic converter thefts, the bill included a prohibition on scrap metal dealers from buying vehicle exhaust devices from anyone other than an authorized seller. The intent was to deter trafficking of catalytic converters with defaced identification marks.

The governor also signed House Bill 2323 to regulate property transfer agreements of fire districts in Johnson County when district property was annexed by a city.

 

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