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Minutes for SB172 - Committee on Judiciary

Short Title

Creating the crimes of trespassing on a critical infrastructure facility and criminal damage to a critical infrastructure facility and eliminating the crime of tampering with a pipeline.

Minutes Content for Wed, Mar 17, 2021

 

Chairperson Patton opened the hearing on SB172.  Natalie Scott provided an overview of the bill. (Attachment 1) She stood for questions.

Proponents

Gavin Kreidler testified in support of SB172. (Attachment 2) Mr. Kreidler explained that the bill addresses two primary issues. It defines critical infrastructure facilities (CIF) and increases the penalties for damaging or interfering with their operation. They believe increasing the criminal penalties on individuals who knowingly trespass or damage a critical infrastructure facility is vitally important to maintaining everyday lifestyle, Kansas economic output, and in some cases the defense of the State and Nation. SB172 is a simple bill that seeks to do two important things. One, it creates a comprehensive legal framework with regards to what entities and industries are considered a CIF. Currently, Kansas has criminal laws against tampering with pipelines, but many other forms of critical infrastructure are not afforded the same necessary protection. The new definition of a CIF would include not only pipelines, but telecom, electrical generational, water treatment, dams, railroad yards and several other facilities and utilities that are critical to the State of Kansas. These facilities are also recognized as CIFs by the Dept. of Homeland Security. Because CIFs represent a sensitive target for perpetrators, SB172 then seeks to provide proportional criminal penalties for individuals who trespass, damage, or disrupt the operation of these CIFS.

Michael Gillaspie testified in support of SB172(Attachment 3) Mr. Gillaspie explained that the bill addresses two primary issues. It defines critical infrastructure and increases the penalties for damaging or interfering with their operation. Companies like ONEOK regularly perform emergency preparedness drills to ensure they’re ready as best they can for any situation that could impact their assets, whether natural disasters or criminal acts. They believe this legislation can help deter criminal acts against the critical infrastructure in our country, specifically in Kansas, and they are voicing their support for that effort.

The proponents stood for questions.

Proponents Written

Neutral Written

 

Opponents

Zack Pistora testified in opposition to SB172(Attachment 12) Mr. Pistora stated current Kansas law is wholly adequate in its existing law that protects public and private property from trespassing or criminal damages. To his current knowledge, there is not a pressing need for increased levels of punishments, as there is no indication or prospect for increased levels of such crimes as it relates to critical infrastructure in Kansas. Intentional damage to critical infrastructure should be penalized appropriately, this bill could interfere with peaceful, legal events or cause overly aggressive criminal penalties for accidental or petty trespassers/vandalism. Since current law has prevented and addresses these crimes, there is no need for SB172.

Adara Corbin testified in opposition to SB172(Attachment 13) Ms. Corbin stated she wanted to draw attention to one provision of this bill. The first amendment as most people understand it will criminalize peaceful protests and this is a mark of great failure.

John Shively testified in opposition to SB172  (Attachment 14) because it infringes on first amendment rights along with imposing severe penalties.

Rabbi Moti Rieber testified in opposition to SB172. (Attachment 15) There are already laws on the books against trespassing, against sabotage and against property damage. So the real purpose of this bill is in the definitions of trespassing and “tampering.” It is part of a national effort by fossil fuel interests and partisan political organizations to stifle political speech in pursuit of their own economic and political interests. It is designed, and intended, to limit protest against companies and governments that refuse to address the issue of human-caused climate disruption.

Davis Hammet testified in opposition to SB172. (Attachment 16) Mr. Hammet stated the legislature should consider carefully crafted solutions to clearly defined problems. Neither exists in this bill. There is no problem that has occurred in Kansas that this bill seeks to address. This bill just severely increases existing penalties if they are committed on a broadly defined new category called Critical Infrastructure Facility (CIF). Mr. Hammet also stated that we all want to ensure the people of Kansas are safe and that their rights are protected. This bill does neither. Mr. Hammet urged the committee to oppose SB172.

Alejandro Rangel-Lopez testified in opposition to SB172 (Attachment 17) and urged the committee to vote against SB172 and remember that above all political goals, the defense and preservation of the Constitution and the ideals conveyed within it come first. While this bill may prove beneficial in the short-term, there is also a strong potential that tactics used within it may also be cited as rationale to penalize demonstrations that are held dear to the heart. 

Melissa Stiehler testified in opposition to SB172(Attachment 18) Ms. Stiehler explained the membership has been told by previous proponent conferees that this bill will help protect the critical infrastructure, but the truth is that it will over criminalize free speech and peaceful protesting. Our laws on our books right now protect against the kinds of acts that these conferees have warned about. The laws we already have offer punishment that is more proportionate to the crime. This bill is broad, heavy-handed, and overreaching. Ms. Stiehler urged the membership to vote in opposition of SB172.

The opponents stood for questions.

Opponents Written

Chairperson Patton closed the hearing on SB172.