Joey Weber read a parts manual for a combine, but he didn’t fully digest what was happening as a traffic stop in Hays escalated last August. Hays police didn’t understand why Weber reacted as he did.
Less than a year after Weber, 36, was killed in that encounter with the law, a new law for the state of Kansas bears his name.
John Weber credited the role of lawmakers - Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, and Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita. Billinger and Finney praised the support of the autism community. Finney, who had been contacted by disabilities rights activist David Mulford, Hutchinson, mentioned Mulford’s ideas for legislation. Mulford said talk about spreading this law beyond Kansas’ borders is in an early stage.
Joey’s Law, signed by Gov. Sam Brownback Friday afternoon at the Statehouse, offers different forms of identification for those needing assistance with cognition, including those on the autism spectrum.
“It makes me feel much better about this whole situation,” said Joey’s father, John Weber, of Oakley, after the signing ceremony.
“If it saves one person’s life - just one person’s life - it will be a good thing,” said Joey’s mother, Nancy Weber.
The law will take effect July 1. Someone in need of cognition assistance and obtaining a professional diagnosis, could opt for any of the identification options in the bill: a placard for inside a vehicle; a decal for a license plate; an indicator on a driver’s license; an indicator on a state identification card.
“The purpose of the legislation is to ensure the safety of members from the cognitive disability community as they interact with law enforcement,” Brownback said. It is a “very sensible” aid, and will be very good for law enforcement.
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