Politics & Government

Senate will debate death penalty bill today

TOPEKA — The full Senate will have the chance today to debate a measure that would abolish the death penalty.

Lawmakers have been pushing through a slew of bills this week. Saturday is the deadline for bills not in an exempt committee to pass out of their chamber of origin. After that the bill is considered dead — although an idea can be revived via amendment or the bill can be sent temporarily to an exempt committee.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, who schedules bill debates, told the chamber Thursday that the death penalty measure, Senate Bill 375, would be up for debate on the floor.

The proposal would create a new crime of aggravated murder to replace death penalty cases. Anyone convicted of the proposed new crime would face a mandatory life sentence.

Supporters of capital punishment have argued that justice should not come with a price tag and that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to violent crime.

Opponents have said that death penalty cases are more costly than other kinds of crimes and do little to deter crime. They have also argued that Kansas has a life-without-parole sentence that offers a valid alternative without the risk of potentially killing an innocent person.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said Thursday that if the bill made to his desk he would consider signing it.

Parkinson helped lead the effort to reinstate the death penalty in Kansas when he served in the Kansas House.

Kansas last executed someone in the 1960s.