The House's corrections committee voted to advance legislation Monday expanding a substance abuse treatment program to people convicted of felony distribution of controlled substances and to raise the felony threshold for a property crime.
Enactment of House Bill 2045 would require $1.1 million in state funding to place nearly 300 offenders into community-based treatment programs, which would reduce demand for beds in the Kansas Department of Corrections. Gov. Laura Kelly included in her proposed budget the funds necessary to support the addition of people in treatment.
Stuart Little, president of Behavioral Health Association of Kansas, said the new bill would add people convicted of drug distribution inadvertently left off legislation approved in 2018. The amendment is needed, he said, but the reform requires lawmakers to approve Kelly's budget recommendation.
"True integrated behavioral health means access and funding for mental illness and substance use disorder treatment without regard to where our consumers seek services in the publicly funded behavioral health system," Little said.
The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee also endorsed House Bill 2049, which would raise the loss threshold for a felony property crime. Currently, a property crime is considered a felony if the loss exceeds $1,000. The bill would raise that threshold to $1,500.
Scott Schultz, executive director of the Kansas Sentencing Commission, said the benchmark for felony theft was increased to $1,500 in 2016.
"Lawmakers nationally have increased felony thresholds to prioritize costly prison space for more serious offenders," he said.
The committee gathered testimony on House Bill 2046 that would clarify in state law the right of judges to order people convicted and sentenced for a crime committed while released on bond for a separate felony could serve the sentences concurrently or consecutively.
A Kansas Court of Appeals decision in a driving under the influence case indicated two state statutes appeared to be in conflict, leading to potential confusion for attorneys and judges.
Kim Parker, representing the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, said the legislation wasn't needed because Kansas law prudently required a sentence for the felony crime committed while on release for a separate felony to be served consecutively. She said the objective of the bill was inconsistent with the public's expectation of fair and just sentencing.
"While this measure is designed to free up bed space and save costs of incarceration, the cost to Kansas businesses (and) Kansas citizens who are crime victims remains unmeasured," Parker said.