House bill addresses issue allowing minors in Kansas to use a farm license for transportation to religious activities

The Kansas House committee is currently considering a bill that aims to restore the religious exemption for young teenagers with farm and restricted licenses. In 2022, a law unintentionally left out the provision for 14- and 15-year-old drivers with farm permits. This bill seeks to rectify that oversight and allow these teenagers to drive to and from their religious activities. (Source: Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Christine Smith, the Treasurer of Wallace County, quickly identified a flaw in a bipartisan bill enacted in 2022. The bill permitted 15- and 16-year-olds to utilize a restricted license for transportation to and from religious activities.

The bill received unanimous approval in the Senate and was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of 87-30 in the House. However, it seems that there was a lack of awareness among lawmakers at the Capitol regarding the scope of the privilege granted by the bill. Governor Laura Kelly signed the bill into law, which granted a religious exemption to restricted licenses for individuals aged 15 and 16. Unfortunately, this exemption did not extend to basic farm permits that are available to 14- and 15-year-old residents of Kansas.

Smith, who is also a driver’s license examiner, expressed immediate awareness of the inconsistency created by the new law. Additionally, it quickly became apparent that the inclusion of this privilege on only one type of license added to the confusion for parents as they considered which license would be best for their teenage drivers.

The House Transportation Committee examined the provisions outlined in House Bill 2523 on Wednesday. If passed, the bill would incorporate the religious exemption from state law, which currently restricts driving permits, into the statute governing farm permits. This would ensure that teenagers aged 14 to 16 with farm licenses have the ability to drive between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. to attend events organized by religious organizations.

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If the bill is adopted by the full Legislature and signed by Kelly, 15- and 16-year-olds with restricted licenses will still have the ability to drive to religious activities, as well as work or school.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Republican from the Weskan community in Wallace County, expressed his bafflement over the exclusion of church activity as an option for the youngest holders of farm permits. This omission has left consumers perplexed.

According to him, the Legislature at the time might have simply overlooked this issue, as all other driving privileges for purposes such as employment, farm-related work, and school are consistent.

The House legislation received the endorsement of the Kansas Farm Bureau, and interestingly, there were no opposition testimonies against this clean-up measure.

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