Gov. Sam Brownback signs the Hard 50 bill into law. (Courtesy: Kansas Governor's Office)
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Two days after lawmakers gave it unanimous approval, Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday signed a bill fixing a constitutional flaw in the state's Hard 50 sentencing statute into law.
“I am pleased that we could resolve this issue of public safety quickly,” Brownback said in a statement. “Repairing the ‘Hard 50’ sentence was the focus of the special session and I wanted to act as quickly as possible to have the law take effect.”
The Hard 50 law allows some convicted murderers to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years. But a June U.S. Supreme Court decision said a jury must decide aggravating factors for enhanced sentences. Under current Kansas law, a judge makes the decision.
A bill advocated by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt puts a jury process into the Hard 50 sentencing law. Schmidt told lawmakers during their special session Tuesday and Wednesday that a change was needed immediately to end a period of uncertainty with Hard 50 cases that are on appeal or in the trial process, plus crimes that might occur between now and when the Legislature would convene its regular session in January.
The bill was delivered to the Secretary of State Friday afternoon. It become law upon publication in the Kansas Register that day.