Sen. Rob Olson reflected Tuesday on the heartbreak of innocence lost and testimony he heard earlier this year from a boy who suffered sexual abuse.
Olson, a Republican from Olathe, said it is horrible that church leaders have ignored reports of child abuse and sheltered those responsible for inflicting severe psychological pain.
“We should not allow this to happen,” Olson said. “If we know this is going on, we should report it to law enforcement, child welfare, district attorney and everybody else we can report it to.
“An investigation should happen instead of seeing a priest move from one parish to the next, hearing of all the victims, over five committed suicides that they knew of. It shouldn't happen. We should protect our children.”
The Senate gave first-round approval to legislation that would require clergy to report child abuse, with an exception for information received during confessions. Olson said the bill is a good first step.
Earlier in the session, a Senate panel heard from several victims of abuse, including a woman whose faith was irrevocably shaken after her son killed himself.
Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, introduced the legislation after hearing from a family in his district. The parents said their son was abused by two older boys during church activities. When the parents brought the issue to the attention of church leaders, they were told the church didn’t want to go to law enforcement.
By the time the matter was investigated, it was too late, the parents said.
Holland thanked the Kansas Catholic Conference for working with him to find language all parties could agree on. The dioceses in Kansas all offered support for the bill.
"I think the language we have in the bill is very solid, very good, and I think we're doing some good for kids in the state,” Holland said.
The legislation is expected to cost the state $128,000 because the Kansas Department for Children and Families said it would need to add employees to handle an anticipated influx of reports.
"It actually alarms me when you look at the request from DCF that they believe they would have to add two people because of the increased number of reported cases of abuse,” said Sen. Bruce Givens, R-El Dorado.
The Senate worked quickly Tuesday to give final action to more than a dozen bills and advance about 20 more.
Senators also confirmed the governor’s appointments of Julie Lorenz as secretary for the Kansas Department of Transportation and Mark Burghart as secretary of the Kansas Department of Revenue.
"I look forward to working collaboratively with communities and constituencies across our state to develop a supportable vision for transportation, complete T-WORKS and craft the next transportation plan," Lorenz said.