2024 Legislative Session, In Review

In addition to headlines on our front web page, the following items were important this legistlative session:


Access to harmful pornographic images is as close as the smartphone that we–and many of our children–carry with us each day.  A new Kansas law will now help cut down on access to porn for children. The Kansas Catholic Conference was a strong and vocal advocate of this law, which was strongly opposed by the technology and porn industries. SB 394 is an Age Verification Law where someone must prove they are at least 18 years old before accessing a porn site and viewing images. This is similar to other laws passed around the country, although Kansas law will be the toughest to date.  In other states where Age Verification has passed, porn purveyors like PornHub have left entirely. This would be great for Kansas. This Age Verification bill became law when the governor failed to act on it (neither signing it into law nor issuing a veto). Here is the House vote, and the vote in the Senate.  


A new Kansas law supported by the Kansas Catholic Conference is intended to help prevent suicide among young people and all others. HB 2144 creates the crime of suicide encouragement. There was highly emotional testimony presented before legislators telling stories of people being encouraged to commit suicide by individuals and even online groups that gave specific instructions about how to take one’s life.  Every life is precious…we must do what we can to offer mental health services to those who wish to harm or kill themselves. Suicide is a growing societal problem that is complex, confusing and mostly devastating to all involved. We hope this law is another step in the right direction toward preventing suicides. 


MHIT stands for Mental Health Intervention Team, which is a program for delivering mental health services to students in schools. For the past three years, many Kansas Catholic schools have used special COVID era federal funds to hire staff, or otherwise provide mental health services for students. These funds are now expiring and Catholic school students (and other non-public school students) were going to be left without the benefit of these services. The Kansas Catholic Conference brought witnesses to Topeka to explain to legislators, face-to-face, why these mental health services are so necessary, particularly in low-income areas where private funding is not an option. Many thanks to State Rep. Brenda Landwehr for her tireless work in securing funds to keep these services for our Catholic students who most need them.     


The Kansas Catholic Conference was pleased to advocate for reform of civil asset forfeiture laws in Kansas. Prior to reform, law enforcement had broad discretion–too broad–to seize property they believed was being used in a criminal enterprise.  Asset forfeiture is a valuable law enforcement tool, but there have been documented instances of abuse.  This law was originally intended for the seizure of property of big-time drug dealers and organized criminals. Too often it was being used on low level offenders and low income people who could not fight the issue in court. Law enforcement still has this tool at their disposal, but with reasonable guardrails. You can read the bill here: SB 458.   


Rarely do legislators agree on an issue unanimously.  But when it came to a proposal honoring Kansans native son Chaplain Father Emil Kapaun of Pilsen, they made a glorious exception! A memorial of some type, very possibly a statue, will be placed at the Kansas Statehouse. The Kansas Catholic Conference was honored to help shepherd this legislation through the legislature and to the governor’s desk for her signature. Very soon, Chaplain Father Kapaun’s image and memory of accomplishment will join Kansans like President Dwight Eisenhower and aviation-adventurer Amelia Earhart. Learn more about Chaplain Father Kapaun at:  https://youtu.be/5FOZ1jUxPDI


Sometimes there are straight up bad bills and other legislative proposals that need to be stopped.  Here is a short list where we made phone calls, personal visits and otherwise helped convince Kansas legislators to vote against a bad idea. 

MEDICAL MARIJUANA came up at two different times during the 2024 Session and was defeated twice. SB 555 had a hearing, but did not advance out of committee thanks to the efforts of State Senators Mike Thompson and Renee Erickson. SB 135 was another version of Medical Marijuana that was brought up on the Senate floor for a vote, but was roundly defeated. There are many reasons the Kansas Catholic Conference opposes medical marijuana.  Our colleague in Oklahoma, where medical marijuana is legal, offered testimony showing the utter chaos and increase in organized crime that legalization has caused there.  

HYPOXIA as a method of executing people in Kansas sentenced to death was proposed in HB 2782SB 534 Although this measure had a hearing in the House, it did not advance further. Although not specifically connected to this bill, the Kansas Catholic Conference opposes the death penalty.  

LIVING HUMAN EMBRYO legislation was discussed in SB 554, which would have stated that an embryo (or as the bill stated, a “fertilized egg”), outside the womb, was not considered human. This was not only anti-science, but immoral.  This bill was raised by Catholic Church critic Senator Cindy Holscher and was roundly defeated.  


SR 1729HR6030 were resolutions in the Senate and House supporting Israel after the October 7, 2023 invasion by Hamas.  The Kansas Catholic Conference stood in support and these resolutions passed both chambers. 

SB 232 was a measure that would have provided child support to women from the time their child was conceived.  As any woman knows, there are expenses and challenges (and blessings!) from the start of every pregnancy. This was passed by both chambers and sent to the governor who is expected to veto this legislation with no chance of an override due to a lack of time. Here are the votes in the House and Senate. 

SB 437 was a bill to retain the KEEP Program, which stands for Kansas Educational Enrichment Program.  This COVID-era program offered $1,000 grants to Kansans to help pay for summer camps, music lessons and more. Many lower income Catholic families took advantage of the KEEP program, but the legislature did not continue KEEP. 

HB 2723 was the focal point of legislation addressing the growing homeless situation in Kansas. In the end, this proposal to provide local municipalities funds to address homelessness was tabled and died.  Homelessness is a complex issue and the Catholic Church remains on the front lines of providing shelter and other necessities for those who need it.  Although we did not provide testimony or have a position on this legislation, one of our concerns was that undocumented immigrants were being singled out for not receiving help. 

SB 489HB 2811 was legislation that would have established a nursery for incarcerated women at the state facility in Topeka. The Kansas Catholic Conference supported this legislation, but it did not move forward. 

Medicaid Expansion is supported by the Kansas Catholic Conference, albeit with concerns about the very real possibility that abortion may be paid for by taxpayers in the future.  HB 2556 is the Medicaid Expansion bill which did not move forward this Session. 

The Kansas Catholic Conference supported HB 2300 which would have legally required all “duly ordained clergy” in Kansas to report instances of sexual abuse.  All Catholic priests and deacons in Kansas already follow this protocol as a condition of their ongoing employment with the Catholic Church.  The legislation passed out of a House committee but did not advance further.  

HB 2716 & SB 499 was legislation addressing the causes of Maternal Mortality. It did not advance this Session.  

SB 287 was legislation requiring parental consent for medications given at a school.  It passed the House and Senate by wide margins and awaits action from the governor.  

EMMA stands for Every Mother Matter Act, HB 2809 If this would become law, it would have established a hotline for people to call to ask questions about adoption, pregnancy resources, etc.  This bill had a hearing but did not move out of committee. 


Other than the unexpected defeat of the gender manipulation bill discussed above, overall, we are pleased with the results of the 2024 Kansas Legislative Session. Women with unplanned pregnancies will have more and better resources for making healthy decisions about their baby without being pressured. We expect that the abortion rate in Kansas will continue to rise, probably dramatically.  But we will not abandon women and babies to the abortion industry. 

As stated above, the possibility of a veto on the tax bill and the calling of a Special Session is very real.  Although the Kansas Catholic Conference does not have a specific position on the tax bill, other than to eliminate the sales taxes on groceries, we will be closely following whatever happens next. 

This is an election year.  All citizens are encouraged to be informed about the positions of their legislators and candidates and vote accordingly.  We are available and willing and eager to come to your community or parish or Knights of Columbus Council to provide an in-person look at what happened this legislative session.  We provide information and voting records, we do NOT “tell people how to vote.” 

We will continue to provide information about issues of interest to Catholics and others.  Please tell your friends about our newsletter and encourage them to sign up at: https://kansascatholic.org/take-action/

Pray for your legislators.