Dear , 

We are now almost a full month into the legislative session, and things are heating up.  As we engage in debates on the important reforms we are looking to enact, those on the left and in the media are demonstrating increasing anger.  It should be no surprise that they are resorting to misrepresentations of what we're trying to accomplish.

Never is that more true than on the debate over Senate Bill 56, which is legislation I am spearheading to ensure minors are protected from harmful material that has no educational value.  Now, some would surely prefer we never talk about these issues because of their so-called sensitivity, but I wasn't elected to shirk in the face of adversity, and protecting our children is important.

So, I've kept fighting - fighting to ensure that we have a reasonable and easy-to-understand statute in regard to harmful material given to minors.  This past week, I delivered testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on this subject:
Removing Affirmative Defense to Promotion of Material Harmful to Minors in K-12 Schools
Chairman Barker and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify in favor of removing the high bar in Kansas law that allows certain individuals to promote material harmful to minors in public and parochial schools.
Our state laws should safeguard the rights of parents to shield and protect their children from harmful material, especially in schools. Pornography and obscene materials are becoming more and more prevalent in our society and it is all too common to hear of cases where children are not being protected from the harm it inflicts.  Frequently, we learn of cases in the news or we hear from parents about adults acting cavalier when minor children are confronted with pornography, even in educational settings.
Please note current law doesn't allow any prosecution to public establishments.  It appears the words "or public" were inadvertently left out, as Section 1. (c) explicitly applies to public institutions.
The other recommended changes make it very clear what would be unlawful.  Specifically, it can be found in the bill under Section 1. (d)(2) on page 2, beginning at line 14.  Bold emphasis has been added to (C) in this document, because the media seems to leave it out of all their stories.
(2) "harmful to minors" means that quality of any description, exhibition, presentation or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse when the material or performance, taken as a whole or, with respect to a prosecution for an act described by subsection (a)(1), that portion of the material that was actually exposed to the view of minors, has the following characteristics:
(A) The average adult person applying contemporary community standards would find that the material or performance has a predominant tendency to appeal to a prurient interest in sex to minors;
(B) the average adult person applying contemporary community standards would find that the material or performance depicts or describes nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse in a manner that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors; and
(C) a reasonable person would find that the material or performance lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors;
Why is this change in law necessary?  Because there are cavalier attitudes about harmful materials displayed to minors in schools that could scar a young person's mind for life.  In addition, there are an increasing number of members in our society that are being charged with sexual crimes, including teachers outside the classroom.  We don't often know what is happening inside the classroom - because of current law.  (I'll give an example below.)  It has taken courageous children and their parents to step forward as they are doing today to plead for your help.

In 2014, the prominent display of a poster on a classroom door in middle school was photographed and given by a child to their parent who was shocked and dismayed by the list of sexual acts that were posted by a school official.

As other parents became aware, they also found the poster to be highly offensive and exceedingly harmful to their children.  Some parents were grieving that the damage the poster caused to their young children's minds could not be undone.

The act of putting up this poster should not be trivialized.  Not only are children traumatized when they don't receive proper information and it is given to them without proper parental oversight, please imagine a child being sexually abused, seeing the poster and believing some of these sexually explicit acts are just another way of showing affection.

The list likely spurred many conversations among the eleven and twelve-year old children, and were most probably filled with confusion and embarrassment, creating an atmosphere that would encourage bullying.  To protect their children, parents have a right to know when there is a push to normalize these types of sexual acts to their children.

In November of last year, there was a news story about students in an Olathe public school who saw pornography on their teacher's computer.  Unfortunately, we don't know the parents of the students or even the name of the teacher.  What we do know, because of current law, nothing was deemed to be illegal.

Teachers and school officials should be people that children and their parents can trust.  SB 56, which passed out of the Senate with a vote of 26-14, will ensure that can still happen.

S Sub HB 2049 - Marijuana Penalties

S Sub HB 2049 moves the crime of possession of marijuana down a level. The first offense is a Class B nonperson misdemeanor, second offense is a Class A nonperson misdemeanor, and third time is a felony. Over 98% of people sentenced under these crimes have no other violent offenses. Proponents of the legislation feel that the prison system needs to prioritize the bed space it has instead of adding more beds. People who commit non-violent drug crimes should be given rehabilitation help and not prison time, while those who commit violent crimes should be prioritized and be given the bed space. S Sub HB 2049 has a projected bed space impact of 89-107 beds according to the Kansas Sentencing Commission for 2017.

An amendment was added on the Senate floor which creates tough new penalties for the crime of breaking into someone's home. Currently 30 percent of those who commit the crime of burglary do not go to jail. Moving the penalties of possession of marijuana down a penalty level allows the additional bed space to go to the more violent crime of breaking into someone's home. This legislation will make sure those who violate someone's personal space and ruin their sense of security serve time in prison. 

When the bill was introduced in the House, HB 2049 contained provisions dealing with agricultural hemp and the use of hemp oil. These provisions were removed in committee as the House introduced a new agriculture hemp bill this session, and the committee felt that the use of hemp oil for medicinal purposes was best studied in the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare.

S Sub for HB 2049 passed with a vote of 38-1 and I supported this bill.
We also passed several other non-controversial bills, all which passed unanimously.  For a list of these bills, click here.

The Kansas Economy Is Growing

Editorial writers at the Kansas City Star are trying to claim that the tax policies we've adopted in Kansas put our state in great jeopardy.  While they are certainly trying to live by the adage that if you repeat a lie enough, people will believe it's true, the reality is the evidence demonstrates the Kansas economy is growing and that's even amidst the doubts about the national economy.
Below are graphs that compare Kansas' economic activity vs. the rest of the U.S.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia releases these indexes after the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the employment data for every state. They combine four state-level indicators to show the economic conditions of the state. These include nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate of a state, and the average wage and salary.

The dark red states show a three month change of less -1.0%
The red states show changes between -0.6% and -1.0%
The light red states show changes between -0.1% and -0.5%
Grey states are unchanged
Light green states show a change between 0.1% and 0.5%
Green states show a change between 0.6% and 1.0%
Dark green states are changes greater than1.0%, Kansas falls in this category

States in red expect less than -4.5% change in the next 6 months
States in orange expect a change between -1.5% and -4.5%
States in tan will see between a 0.0% and -1.5% change
States in light green will see a 0.0% and 1.5% change
States in dark green will see a 1.5% to 4.5% change, Kansas is in dark green
And states that are blue will see a change of more than 4.5%

So, don't let the media deceive you into thinking our policies aren't working - they are working.  And, while more work must be done (especially electing a new president!), the difference in economic activity between now and just a few years ago is unmistakable.  Jobs are being created.  People are engaging in the economy that will result in growth for our state.


In the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, we held a hearing on SB 372, which amends last year's HOPE Act. Lucy Ross shared her success story of how she and her children overcame poverty. She realized she needed to work hard to get out of her situation and was connected with a job program through the Department for Children and Family Services (DCF).  The programs Kansas put in place gave her the encouragement and guidance she needed to be successful.  As her tears flowed during her testimony, she was obviously proud to be able to regain her human dignity.

Since implementation of the HOPE Act last year, Kansas has made significant strides in reforming welfare in our state. Over 35,000 Kansans have participated in job training programs through the HOPE Act, allowing them to transition off of welfare and end their cycle of poverty. Through the Act, the Department for Children and Families has implemented a variety of programs and collaborations with a variety of service providers, community programs and career navigators to provide resources for those in need. 

Proof of Citizenship to Vote

The new executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance commission (EAC) has required residents from Alabama, Kansas, and Georgia to register to vote using proof of U.S. citizenship. All three states had requested this change from the EAC. This new rule only applies to the three states who requested it. The valid forms of citizenship documentation include: birth certificate, naturalization papers, or a passport. The EAC requirement is in line with the original Voter-ID law approved by the Legislature in 2011. The goal of proof of citizenship measures is to ensure a law-abiding citizen's vote is not canceled out by someone who is not a citizen or someone not legally eligible to vote. In close elections, which are becoming more and more common, ensuring the integrity of an election is key.  For questions and guidelines on proof of citizenship documents visit here

Finally, a word on Judicial Selection

I was disappointed when the House this week failed to pass the Constitutional Amendment to change the way we select our Supreme Court justices.   As a result, you will not have the ability to vote on the process of judicial selection this fall.  Now it is up to the people of Kansas to vote accordingly for their representation in the State Legislature, to ensure this initiative can pass in a future session.  However, you will still have the opportunity to vote against retention of the judges responsible for the recent rulings, which violate life and liberty.

IMPORTANT!!!  Religious Liberty Rally

On February 17 from 12-1 PM on the second floor of the Capitol, there will be a rally for Religious Freedom.  We will be hearing from an excellent group of speakers:
  • Ryan Anderson, Heritage Foundation
  • Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers, prosecuted by the Washington State Attorney General for declining to help celebrate a same-sex wedding ceremony
  • Hernan Castano, one of the "Houston Five" pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed by the City of Houston
  • Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life
  • Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, litigant in lawsuit against HHS Mandate
  • Governor Brownback
There are a coalition of organizations sponsoring the event, including the Kansas Catholic Conference, the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, the Faith Family Freedom Alliance of Kansas, and Concerned Women for America.  Event information will be updated at:  

In Conclusion

Thank you for reading this week's newsletter.  I appreciate all who have written so far with your opinions on legislation before us.

In honor of your liberty,

Mary Pilcher-Cook

Mary Pilcher Cook


Working in honor of your liberty.
Contact me today!

State Senator Mary Pilcher Cook | Sheila Wodtke, Treasurer | Shawnee | KS | 66216