Topeka House members gave overwhelming approval Monday to a bill for protecting mothers-to-be and their fetuses, despite objections from some that the bill could have unintended consequences.
The bill, dubbed "Alexa's Law" and approved 94-28, would make it possible to charge someone with murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide or battery for killing or harming a fetus. It says the definition of "person" for those specific crimes includes an "unborn child" at "any stage of gestation from fertilization to birth."
The measure was inspired by the murder last year of a pregnant 14-year-old Wichita girl and was named for her fetus.
Supporters, including Kansans for Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, note that the murdered teenager was only three weeks away from giving birth and that she and her family already had picked a name.
"It's about justice, not abortion," said Mary Kay Culp, Kansans for Life's executive director. "It gives prosecutors more choices and families more rights."
Abortion rights advocates have worried that the bill is a first step toward banning abortions in Kansas. In explaining their "no," votes, they suggested the measure could force law enforcement agencies to do more autopsies or have other consequences.
Among area lawmakers, Republican Anthony Brown, of Eudora, and Democrat Ann Mah, of Topeka, voted for the bill. Republican Tom Sloan, of Lawrence, and Democrats Barbara Ballard and Paul Davis, of Lawrence, and Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, voted against the bill.
No language vote
The House put off Monday's announced debate on a bill making English the state's official language.
Rep. Don Myers, R-Derby, chairman of the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security, said documents explaining the changes made by his committee weren't ready for legislators.
The bill would make English the official language in Kansas, though it has flexibility to allow local, county and state agencies to print or make available documents in other languages.
It also would encourage that English courses be made available to immigrants not proficient in English. It does not provide the funds for such classes.
Myers has described the bill as another tool for work force development, not as an anti-immigrant measure.
Other groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, based in Los Angeles, see the bill as one of many popping up across the country as states deal with illegal immigration.
'Noncitizen' tax idea
A Coffey County legislator who says political correctness is destroying the country wants to impose a 3 percent payroll tax on noncitizens to help pay for bilingual education and other expenses in Kansas schools.
"I want people to pay their fair share," said Rep Bill Otto, R-LeRoy, who added that his bill would help track illegal immigrants in the state.
In 2005-2006, the state paid about $30 million for bilingual education, according to the Kansas State Department of Education.
The bill would impose a 3 percent tax on all noncitizens from July 1 of this year through July 30, 2013, Otto said. Employers would be responsible for identifying noncitizens and collecting the tax, with a penalty of up to $10,000 per occurrence, plus the outstanding tax, for those who fail to comply.
Though the bill hasn't been scheduled for a hearing, opponents already are lining up to blast the legislation as flawed and poorly conceived.