Legislation imposing tougher penalties on child molesters and other sex offenders went Monday night to the governor's desk.
Passage of the bill, dubbed "Jessica's Law," was part of a deal worked out by House and Senate negotiators last week, after the House rejected a compromise bill bundling the popular sex offender measure with legislation the Senate wanted to allow private prisons in Kansas.
The Senate voted 36-2 for the sex offender bill with no debate, and the House followed with a vote of 122-0, after which members applauded.
Sending Jessica's Law to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius hinged on a deal negotiators worked out Friday. It called for a House vote on prisons, followed by the Senate passing Jessica's Law.
The House voted 74-48 against the bill allowing the Department of Corrections to license and regulate such facilities in counties where voters approve the idea. It also included $20.5 million in bonding authority to expand state prisons.
"I feel like this is a positive victory in that we got Jessica's Law separate from an unpopular bill," said Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson.
Pauls later thanked colleagues who "hung in there" until Jessica's Law was separated from private prisons.
"A lot of people were terrified that we might not get this bill passed," she said, referring to Jessica's Law.
Some House members didn't like the idea of obligating the state to paying off bonds.
"We could pay cash for this and save ourselves a substantial amount of interest," said Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro. "I don't support additional debt for our state."
Kansas law prohibits housing state prisoners in private facilities in the state, but they can be housed in private facilities in other states.
Senators had argued for bundling the bills, because increased penalties for sex offenders would generate the need for an additional 1,000 prison beds by 2016.
"We'll be back next year figuring out where to put all these criminals," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence.
House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, said the message was clear.
"A lot of people feel strongly that the management and ownership of prisons is a government function," he said.
The sex offender bill is modeled after Florida's Jessica's Law, named for the 9-year-old girl killed last year by a convicted sex offender. Arkansas, Oregon and Virginia have enacted similar laws this year.
The bill calls for a minimum 25-year sentence for adults convicted of any of seven violent sex crimes against anyone younger than 14, including rape, aggravated sodomy and sexual exploitation.
A second conviction, no matter the victim's age, means a sentence of 40 years, and third-time offenders face life without the possibility of parole.
Once released after serving every day of their sentences, offenders face a lifetime of parole and wearing a Global Positioning System bracelet, which would let the state track their movements.
All other offenders, such as those convicted of a first offense in which the victim is older than 14, face lifetime parole when released. If they violate parole, they must wear the tracking bracelet for life.