Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Kansas legislators have opened their special session to address a proposed change to the state's "Hard 50" prison sentence in response to a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The House and Senate leaders banged the gavel Tuesday shortly after 8 a.m. to read the resolution by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback formally calling the special session.
House members planned to consider the "Hard 50" measure by Tuesday evening. It would modify how defendants are sentenced to a mandatory 50 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in a ruling in a Virginia case that juries must determine whether a mandatory minimum sentence is warranted in criminal cases. Current Kansas law lets judges make that determination but the proposed bill would give that task to juries.
Kansas House members are preparing to debate a bill that would change the state's "Hard 50" criminal sentencing law.
The House Judiciary Committee plans to take the measure up Tuesday morning, when lawmakers return to the Statehouse for a special session. A vote by the full chamber is expected by evening.
The current law allows convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June raised questions about its constitutionality.
The high court said juries must determine whether a mandatory minimum sentence is warranted in criminal cases. The Kansas law lets judges make that determination but the bill would give the task to juries.
The Senate hopes to consider the measure Wednesday. It has bipartisan support.