KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For the third year in a row, a bill that was introduced as a measure to protect children from child abuse has stalled in the Kansas legislature.
In 2017, Kansas Rep. Louis Ruiz introduced Adrian's Law — named after Adrian Jones, a Kansas City, Kansas, boy who was murdered by his parents.
If the bill is signed into law, it would strengthen child abuse reporting laws and require the Kansas Department for Children and Families to physically view a child who's at risk for abuse when visiting the home, instead of knocking and leaving when no one answers.
Judy Conway, Adrian's grandmother, said she's disappointed Adrian's Law has stalled for the third year in a row.
"Year after year, it just seems to be more and more excuses as to why it doesn't get passed," Conway said. "I think we need to get past all the excuses."
Ruiz said Adrian's Law initially got hung up this session when Susan Wagle, president of the Kansas Senate, pushed for an abortion amendment that failed.
"That put a freeze on all the legislation policy making coming out of the house," Rep. Ruiz said. "Then, we had COVID, which killed everything."
Ruiz also referred to Wagle as a "selfish senator."
Laura McCabe, spokeswoman for Wagle, said Ruiz's claims about Wagle are false.
In the 2020 session, the Senate passed 94 bills. The House passed 65 bills. McCabe said the same could've been done for Adrian's Law.
The bill originated in the House. It would need to move through the House Committee then onto the floor of the House's chambers for a vote. If the bill passed by a majority of the House, Adrian's Law would then move to the Senate to be voted on before heading to the governor's desk.
But, Adrian's Law was never voted on by Ruiz and the rest of the House. McCabe said there's nothing the Senate could have done, since the bill never made it to the Senate's chambers.
"He's deflecting the issue because his bill was introduced in 2017 and hasn't made it past the House," McCabe said. "If you don't look at the details, it sounds good to blame someone else, doesn't it?" McCabe said.
Conway said Adrian's Law would be a way to honor her grandson and protect the children of Kansas from suffering the same fate.
"It's just so ridiculous," Conway said. "We're adults. I think its time to put the bickering aside and just focus on putting another safeguard in place to help better protect children."
Adrian's Law has failed to leave the House each year.
In 2018, the bill needed to be reworded, so the House never voted on it.
In 2019, Ruiz had a family emergency that prevented him from taking the bill to the floor.
Both sides of the aisle agree COVID-19 prevented more work from getting done in the 2020 session. Only 13 bills were signed into law this year.
Adrian spent his final moments confined to a bathroom. The 7-year-old was left in the room without clothes, food and water.
When the I-Team obtained surveillance video from inside the home where Adrian lived with his dad and stepmother, 41 Action News discovered another adult, identified as Adrian's uncle, lived at the home during the time Adrian was confined and abused.
At one point, the video shows Adrian sneaking into the kitchen for a bowl of water. When Adrian's uncle walks into the shot, Adrian can be seen hiding from his uncle. When his uncle walks back out of the kitchen, Adrian stops hiding and runs out of the shot.
The I-Team took this video, which police already had in their possession, to authorities.
Under current Kansas law, it's not a crime to fail to report child abuse. Since the police did not have evidence that Adrian's uncle contributed to the physical abuse, he could not be charged with a crime.
The I-Team also showed the footage to Ruiz, who represents Wyandotte County, where Adrian was killed.
"Upon studying the film that KSHB provided to my office, it was seen that there was subsequent people involved other than the father and the stepmother," Ruiz said. "There was an uncle involved in hiding the abuse. What my bill did, was make people (who live) in the house over the age of 18, who were not abused themselves, culpable to report."
Conway now looks to 2021 for the bill, named after her grandson, to be signed into law.
"Let's get our act together," Conway said. "Let's work together."