Kansas Senate turns back Democrat’s bid to force action on clergy reporting mandate

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TOPEKA — Democratic Sen. Tom Holland found little support for a motion Tuesday designed to bring to the full Senate a resolution stuck in committee that would require religious leaders in Kansas to become mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect.

Holland, of Baldwin City, found no interest among the Republican supermajority to overrule GOP Senate leadership’s view that the “Stop Protecting Pedophile Priests Amendment” didn’t merit consideration by the Legislature. His motion, which required 24 votes for approval, failed 10-24.

“For far, far too long the Kansas Legislature has looked the other way while pedophile priests, pastors and other religious leaders of faith sexually assaulted Kansas children,” Holland said.

His proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution would make ordained ministers of religion mandatory reporters along with educators, law enforcement officers and others. His amendment contained no exclusion for communications with individuals during a religious confession of sinfulness.

Holland’s proposal in Senate Concurrent Resolution 1624 was introduced in March, but the Senate Judiciary Committee had taken no action on the measure.

If his motion had drawn support from 24 of the 40 senators, the underlying amendment would have become available for consideration by the full Senate. To make it to statewide ballots, two-thirds of Senate members and two-thirds of House members would have had to vote for it.

In the House, Rep. Jim Gartner, D-Topeka, was author of a comparable motion that would force the House to bring out of committee a bill that would repeal the state’s 6.5% sales tax on groceries.

Gartner invoked Subsection A of House Rule 1309 to trigger a vote on his motion to withdraw House Bill 2487 from the House Taxation Committee and place it on the House’s debate calendar.

He complained House GOP leadership bottled up proposals comparable to the recommendation by Kelly, who is seeking re-election, to eliminate the full state sales tax assessed on food. The bill targeted by Gartner was introduced in January and cosponsored by 48 House Republicans and Democrats.

“Look, we need to debate this bill,” Gartner told House colleagues Monday. “I urge you. I implore you. Let’s let our constituents know that we have them in mind when we’re here.”

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said 70 of the 125 state representatives would have to vote in support of Garner’s motion to give the bill traction.

House and Senate Republicans have shared interest in an alternative proposal that would phase out the state’s sales tax on groceries over a three-year period.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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