Kansas House Bill 2496 would lessen the knowledge requirement in Kansas’ law that bars the display to minors of material harmful to minors. Present law makes it a crime to knowingly display such material to a minor. The bill would lessen the standard to recklessly displaying such material to a minor. It would also broaden the law to apply to non-commercial establishments.
This bill is the same as Kansas H.B. 2165 that failed to make it out of the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice last year.
H.B. 2496 died in the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.
Lowering the knowledge requirement in the state’s “harmful to minors law will have a chilling effect on retailers and will inevitably lead to self-censorship. Although the courts have ruled that some limitation on the display of material “harmful to minors” is permissible, they have also ruled that these limitations may not unreasonably hinder the access of adults.
In Smith v. California, the Supreme Court ruled that laws restricting access to speech must include a knowledge requirement. Though the Court did not mandate a specific knowledge standard, it has referred to “knowingly” as an appropriate standard in numerous subsequent cases. Knowingly was adopted as the standard for knowledge in the model laws for barring the sale or display of materials that are obscene or harmful to minors and is the standard used in virtually every state that has such laws.
Even though they may not be a substantial difference between knowingly and recklessly, lessening of the knowledge requirement could make it easier to pursue prosecutions against book and video store owners and other retailers. This will cause an inevitable chilling effect that will lead to self-censorship by retailers.
- On January 23, 2014, the bill was introduced  and referred to the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.
- Media Coalition submitted a memo in opposition  to the members of the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice on January 30, 2014. The memo explained that lowering the knowledge requirement could have a chilling effect on retailers.
- On February 10, 2014, the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice held a hearing on the bill. The Committee took no action on the bill.
- The bill died in the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.