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Work On Hard 50 Sentencing Law Begins Monday

A legislative committee is expected to meet Monday to begin work on modifying the state's so-called Hard 50 sentencing law.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling raised questions about whether the law could stand as-is. The Kansas law allows judges to sentence convicted murderers to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. The committee is headed by Representative Lance Kinzer, a Republican from Olathe. Kinzer says the committee will hold a public hearing on a fix proposed by Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

“I think it’s a pretty solid proposal as it stands and would need only very slight modifications, if any, and I’m hopeful that the special committee will see it that way as well,” he says.

Lawmakers will have the option to amend the plan or propose different solutions.

The basic sentence for first-degree murder in Kansas is life with parole possible after 25 years. The Supreme Court says that juries must be able to weigh in on enhanced sentences like a Hard 50, rather than leaving the decision solely in the hands of judges.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Radio covering health, education and politics.