Rep. John Carmichael hesitated on a decision that he considered more difficult to make than deciding on the death penalty.
Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat and attorney, said he wavered before deciding to oppose House Bill 2283, which would require judges to cease considering child victims declared as "aggressors" as a mitigating factor when determining the sentence of an adult convicted of a sex crime.
“I think we have to trust judges, and we have to give them some level of discretion,” he said. “I think in some instances, there may be victims who are, in fact, the aggressor.”
The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee voted to table the sex-crime sentencing bill, which derailed an attempt by Attorney General Derek Schmidt and others to reshape state law to forbid the conduct of Kansans too young to provide consent to be considered by a judge when weighing a decision on reducing the sentence of an adult offender.
The same committee recently rejected legislation that would repeal capital punishment in Kansas, with Carmichael voting for repeal.
The corrections committee did vote Monday to endorse House Bill 2018 and remove power from the Kansas secretary of state to prosecute alleged election crimes.
Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, introduced an amendment to the bill creating a Kansas criminal justice reform commission. The commission’s responsibilities would include analysis of sentencing guidelines for drug and non-drug crimes, as well as reviewing diversion programs and specialty courts.
The commission would include Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate, one county or district attorney from an urban area, one county attorney from a rural area, one law professor from the University of Kansas and one law professor from Washburn University.
"We, frankly, in my mind, have such a fragmented system right now," Jennings said. "It’s very difficult to identify with certainty what’s working and what’s not working. I think we can do better with targeting our resources if we understand how it goes for folks as they go through these systems."
The committee also adopted House Bill 2048 to create a test for determining whether an out-of-state conviction was comparable to an in-state offense under the state's criminal code.
Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka, introduced an amendment for that bill to make the test retroactive, despite the potential of running afoul of the Kansas Constitution.
"I think this gets us closer to where we need to be," Patton said. "Again, we’re not going to know what the court thinks about this until a court rules on it.”