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My Two Cents of Common Sense
"Northwest Kansas holds some truly inspiring scenery, contains a wealth of Old West history, possesses some of the finest educational institutions, promotes an entrepreneurial spirit, and is home to some of the most hard-working, genuine people I've ever met!"    ~ Adam Smith
1970 RD 3 Weskan, KS 67762
785-821-2568 (Cell)
300 SW 10th St, Suite 512N Topeka, KS  66612
785-296-0715 (Office)

PREAMBLE: There have been several controversial issues facing the legislature both last year and this year, from gun control to school finance to taxes and more. It is my responsibility, I feel, to explain the facts of the issue and explain the rationale behind my vote. While my vote may not have been the way you personally would have wished, I have never voted in opposition to the position that the majority of my constituents contacted me expressing their support. I stated when I ran for this office that I would always vote the majority of the opinion of my constituents on all policy issues... I would only vote against the majority if their position violated my moral and ethical values.

The Adoption Protection Act

With tax and budget issues looming as unfinished business as the legislative session neared its constitutional deadline, the predominant topic of debate became a controversial bill called the Adoption Protection Act.  The legislature spent several hours debating the proposition late into the night on Thursday. Just as with gun bills and other socially sensitive issues, the facts of the legislation quickly became lost in the emotion of the debate. Proponents mostly argued it was protection of religious freedom, and opponents mostly argued it was discrimination against non-Christian religions and LGBT community, but the rhetoric spoken frequently diverged from the content of the bill towards the wonderful merits of adoption and the evils of discrimination... things on which a large majority of us would agree.
After the House of Representatives passed the Adoption Protection Report late into the night, the Senate then took up the measure and was voting at nearly 2:00 a.m. in the morning.
The concept was introduced back in January as HB 2481 in the House Judiciary committee and also as HB 2687 in the Federal and State Affairs committee, in addition to a similar bill in the Senate. Hearings were held in both committees. Ultimately, HB 2481 was the bill that was chosen to work and debate. The bill underwent many changes with input from both original proponents and opponents to facilitate various concerns regarding the implications and application of the new law. The final language was put into a new bill – SB 284 – using a procedural move to expedite the process as the session neared the end.

In the final language, the points of contention came in section 1 subsection (d) which reads:

“No child placement agency, solely because of such agency's objection to performing, assisting,   counseling,   recommending, consenting to, referring or otherwise participating in a placement that violates such agency's sincerely held religious beliefs, shall be denied: participation in any program operated by the department for children and families in which child placement agencies are allowed to participate; or reimbursement for performing foster care placement or adoption services on behalf of an entity that has a contract with the department for children and families as a case management contractor.”

If you track the development of this bill on the Kansas Legislature website, you’ll see that the language changed throughout the process by continuing to narrow the scope of the bill in an attempt to eliminate perceived potential for discrimination.

However, just because both sides were working on making it better didn’t mean that all sides were supportive of the measure. That was apparent in the hours of debate and the extremely close vote.

Facts that were stated during the House debate were that 35 child placement agencies exist in the state of Kansas, and that 12 of these are faith-based agencies with their own criteria on selection of placement families based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.

There were very experienced legal minds working on both sides of the issue, which made this a difficult choice because they all did a good job expressing their point of view.

Proponents argued that this new law only codifies what is already practiced in Kansas currently, and specifically allows protection for these faith-based agencies to continue providing foster and/or adoption services. They also claimed that other states without a similar law have seen some faith-based agencies shut down. To make that point, they referenced the similarity of the Oregon Christian bakery that refused to make a wedding cake celebrating a same-sex couple.

Opponents argued that this new law will prevent unmarried, or same-sex couples, or members of non-Christian religions from adopting. They also stated that they felt no tax dollars should go to any agency that has selective criteria for placements.

I voted in favor of the bill because, while it is true that certain child placement agencies do have specific criteria, that does not mean that someone who may not meet those criteria could not use one of the other 23 agencies. Additionally, my wife and I have been through the foster care licensing process and have personal experience with the foster care and adoption programs. In our experience and in my understanding of other cases, no tax dollars are given to the child placement agencies for adoption. Adoption is expensive and cost is one of the most hindering factors to families that want to open up their home to a child in need. Likewise, for foster care, tax dollars flow through one of the two state contractors, KVC and Saint Francis, to the reimburse the foster family for their expenses.

The division in the legislature was unique. It was not along party lines, rural/urban lines, or even religious lines. I ultimately wanted to do what was best for the children in the care of the state that, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned, abused, or neglected. If faith-based agencies were sued and shut down, I know that would reduce the services available to place children. This bill does not change the current practice and does not prevent anyone from being eligible to foster or adopt, unless they were unwilling to use an accommodating agency that would allow them to do so.
I strive to create and maintain constituent relationships through good communication. Two-way communication is essential to my effectiveness as a legislator in promoting successful solutions for Northwest Kansas! Please consider subscribing to my contact list or send me an email and I will add you.
Copyright © 2018 Smith For Kansas, All rights reserved.

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