Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Open record dispute holds up sex-crime bills

April 30, 2003

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— A House-Senate disagreement over opening some adoption and foster care records is blocking the progress of bills on sexual predators and rape sentences.

The dispute could keep the state from fixing what Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Atty. Gen. Phill Kline consider a flaw in the Kansas statute allowing for indefinite confinement of sexual predators after their prison terms expire.

In February, the Kansas Supreme Court interpreted the 1994 statute to prohibit any postponement of the civil trial at which a jury decides whether a sexual offender is a "predator" who should remain in state custody for treatment.

Also caught in the House-Senate disagreement is a bill backed by Sebelius and Kline setting a minimum 40-year sentence for a second rape conviction.

The fates of those two bills and one by Sen. David Adkins on adoption and foster care records are linked because two Senate and three House negotiators are the same on each.

The two Senate negotiators working on all three bills said they have concerns about any proposals that could increase the prison population.

They said their concerns make them reluctant to concede to the House on Adkins' bill.

Adkins, R-Leawood, wants to make adoption or foster care records available if a child who has been in state custody is killed or seriously injured in the care of his or her new family.

As passed by the Senate, the measure would apply to both adoption and foster care records. The House approved a version applying only to foster care records.

No negotiations are planned on any of the three bills after legislators return today to wrap up their business for the year.

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