Topeka Senate leaders want to get tough on sex offenders, offering a proposal calling for a minimum of 25 years behind bars for crimes involving children and life imprisonment for a third conviction.
"It makes sense to stand up and say these people ought to be removed from society and that is our primary goal," Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt said after the plan was announced Thursday.
Schmidt, R-Independence, said the proposal deals with what the law calls "violent sex offenders" - those who commit such crimes as rape, sodomy, indecent liberties with a child and sexual exploitation of a child.
Under the plan, anybody convicted of rape or aggravated criminal sodomy of a child younger than 14 would serve a minimum of 25 years before being eligible for parole.
If paroled, the person then would face a lifetime requirement of wearing an electronic monitoring device, allowing officials to keep track of movements.
The current penalty for first-time rape of a child is about 12 to 14 years, and nine to 10 years for aggravated sodomy.
All other sex offenders would be placed on lifetime parole and supervision when released from prison. If they violate their parole, they also must wear the monitoring device forever. Such offenders now are subject to a parole period of about five years and after that aren't monitored.
Anybody convicted a third time for a violent sex offense would be behind bars for life without any possibility of parole. There are now increased penalties for repeat offenders, but no limit on how many times they can commit that type of crime.
Senate President Steve Morris said the proposal will be at the top of the to-do list when the Legislature convenes in January, and he will push for quick approval by the chamber.
"I think it has a good chance for passage. There seems to a lot of support for it," said Morris, R-Hugoton.
The proposal follows one made last month by House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, that includes banning sex offenders who victimized children from living within 2,500 feet of any school or day-care center. State law is silent on limiting where they can live.
It also calls for harsher penalties for those failing to register with law enforcement officials and requiring them to renew their driver's license annually instead of every six years.
"It shows there's a great deal of momentum to do something," Mays said of the Senate plan.
"I would predict that now that both houses have weighed in, we are going to toughen up those laws. We just have to figure out the manner in which we do it," he said.
Schmidt said longer prison terms for sex offenders could save the state money. When released, they often face civil commitment to the Kansas Sexual Predator Treatment Program at Larned State Hospital, which costs more than keeping them in prison.
"By lengthening prison terms, you stretch out that pipeline that leads to civil commitment," he said. "This is one of those situations where you can be tougher on criminals and save money in the long run."
But he said the proposal isn't about saving money.
"It's motivated by concern for public safety," he said. "We also think we have figured out a way to make it a smart budget move."
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has nearly 3,800 registered sex offenders in its public database going back to 1994, and children were victims of 80 percent of the cases.