TOPEKA, Kan (KSNT) – A bill in the Kansas Senate would mean tougher sentences for Kansans convicted of a hate crime. Senate Bill 128 would double the sentence for any crime motivated by race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and disability. Currently, there are no mandatory sentences for these crimes.
“A judge can decide whether or not there will be an enhanced sentence or not. What this bill will do will say that this must be the penalty phase for a crime motivated by hate,” said Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City).
The bill does not currently include protections for gender identity, but Haley said he will introduce a bill to address this.
Haley has been fighting for over a decade to pass a hate crime bill in Kansas. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on this latest version. Haley said the committee has heard similar bills in 2002 and 2015.
This hearing comes after 51-year-old Adam Purinton opened fire in an Olathe bar, killing one man and injuring two others in February. The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced they will be investigation Purinton’s case as a hate crime; however, Haley said many hate crimes don’t receive that level of attention.
“We have an ongoing issue of the smaller or less crimes that have been under-addressed or not addressed. It’s not just egregious ones like the assaults and batteries that we see or even everything up to murder. There are all the other ones in between,” said Haley.
Haley said it was difficult to get a hearing on Senate Bill 128, but he’s hopeful the Kansas Legislature will pass it this session.