Kansas Senate passes bills on detaining foster children, funeral processions, rural development

By: - March 4, 2021 8:26 am
Sen. Mary Ware, D-Wichita, said she was committed to wearing a mask to stem spread of COVID-19 because threat of the deadly virus remained. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sen. Mary Ware, D-Wichita, said she was committed to wearing a mask to stem spread of COVID-19 because threat of the deadly virus remained. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Senate cast affirmative votes Wednesday for more than two dozen pieces of legislation ranging from rural development programs to funeral procession statutes.

Among the bills passed was a measure amending in the Kansas Code for Care of Children a judge’s authority to issue “no run” orders for children. The judge would be required to send foster children to secure placement facilities if they are at risk of running away.

Supporters of the bill said current law prohibits youths from being held in detention unless a youth has run away several times. The Kansas Department for Children and Families opposed the bill for taking the decision and consideration for each case from the judge’s hands.

Sen. Mary Ware, D-Wichita, said detaining Kansas children should always be a last resort.

“This bill would remove our judges’ ability to judge each individual child’s situation,” Ware said. “And since there’s evidence that placement in a secure facility is so traumatic and can have a negative effect on a youth’s development, and since our law currently in place allows for exactly this kind of court order, I see no reason for this law.”

Senate Bill 104 passed by a vote of 28-9. The bill now goes to the House for review.

Sen. Kellie Warren, R-Leawood, championed the bill as a simple but important measure to ensure runaway foster care children are not lost.

The Senate also passed a series of rural development programs, which received pushback from Sen. Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson, among others, who opposed what he called handout programs picking winners and losers.

Senate bills 90, 91 and 124 each offer different funding opportunities for development projects in urban districts or municipalities, but Steffen said they would leave those outside these areas to pay the price.

Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield, passed on Senate Bill 124, further financing STAR bonds projects, for a lack of oversight placed in the bill.

“We had many opportunities to add transparency to Senate Bill 124 and oversight to this STAR bonds approval process,” Alley said. “None of those amendments made it on the final bill.”

A bill codifying funeral processions and permitting funeral escorts to direct these proceedings passed without opposition. Sen. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, said this would be especially beneficial for those mourning fallen veterans.

“It finally recognizes the long-held tradition of funeral processions,” Pittman said. “It also is a step in protecting those selfless riders like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Patriot Guard, Buffalo Soldiers clubs and other organizations to ease the burden as they help families grieve for our fallen heroes.”

A hotly debated “back to school” bill requiring public schools to offer an in-person option to every child statewide by March 26 passed 26-12. Sen. John Doll, R-Garden City, broke from party lines in opposition to the bill.

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, opposed the bill for its lack of a sunset to the requirement.

“I believe that school boards have the authority and should be making decisions about attendance,” Francisco said. “The state order to close school buildings, not to stop education, during a pandemic was quite different from this bill that would apply in perpetuity.”

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.