TOPEKA — Another domestic violence victim protection bill was brought to committee on Wednesday. Senate Bill 150 focuses on protecting victims from housing discrimination and making it easier for them to relocate to a safe place.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill, during which domestic violence advocates testified as proponents for the bill.
The bill addresses several obstacles that domestic violence victims face when it comes to obtaining housing. Primarily, the bill would prevent landlords from denying domestic violence victims from tenancy or evicting them based on their status as a victim and because they could be in danger again. Often times, a potential landlord will see the victim had several 911 calls made to their previous address which stops them from offering tenancy to the victims.
“We have to empower these women and men and take down this barrier. They’re taking that step out of their situation, so we have to do what we can to take down those barriers for them,” bill sponsor Sen. Dinah Sykes (D-Lenexa) said.
SB150 would also allow victims to end their leases early in order to protect themselves from further violence. Without this bill, the victims are at the will of the landlords to terminate their leases, which often leads to victims being forced to continue to pay rent for housing they’re not using or having to continue to live there because they can’t afford to pay multiple rents. Additionally, SB150 would allow victims to break their lease without their abuser’s signature.
This bill is one of several introduced during this legislative session to protect domestic violence victims. HB2270, which would require law enforcement to notify victims of domestic violence the earliest date their abuser could be released on bond, was introduced in February. Sen. Oletha Faust-Gordeau (D-Wichita) also introduced a bill that would increase penalties for domestic violence abusers. Sykes speculated that the increase in legislation could be due in part because people have been more vocal on these issues since #MeToo movement gained popularity in late 2017.
“I am disappointed that more of the bills that have been introduced in Kansas have not had hearings or weren’t blessed, so they’re kind of dead at this time and I was very fortunate to get bipartisan support on this bill and hopefully it will move out of committee next week,” Sykes said.
Two of the sponsors, Sykes and Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), made headlines last year for switching their party affiliations from Republican to Democrat. The other sponsors are all Republicans.
The bill was introduced Feb. 12, the day before the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence’s 16th Annual Advocacy Day at the Capitol.
Kate Mays is a University of Kansas senior from Lenexa majoring in journalism.