As you are aware the Kansas Legislature returned this past Monday, January 13. Traditionally the first week is a rather uneventful week. The primary goal of legislators and committees is to acquaint themselves with chamber rules, committee assignments, and new staff members. However, this week Senate Judiciary Committee hit the ground running with a hearing on SB 126, the repeal of the death penalty. An interesting fact with this bill, if passed it would prohibit any future death penalty cases; those already on death row would not be affected.
The hearing was very well attended with more than 20 individuals testifying or providing written testimony. The proponents of repeal seem to have an uphill battle moving forward. Sen. Greg Smith made an impassioned plea on behalf of his murdered daughter Kelsey Smith to retain the death penalty in Kansas. The hearing on death penalty process and timing continued on Tuesday, January 21.
For more insight, please see http://cjonline.com/news/state/2014-01-16/senate-panel-delves-death-penalty-repeal-bill.
The other big news was Gov. Sam Brownback’s State of the State address. The take away from his address was a very pointed reference about the school finance case and what the Kansas Supreme Court should do. The governor stated:
One of the ironies, though, of our age is that government has become omnipresent, yet the people have never felt more distant from it. Too many decisions are made by unaccountable, opaque institutions. Elected officials are sometimes complicit in this transference of power, because it removes them from accountability. So let's be clear. On the number one item in the state budget – education – the Constitution empowers the Legislature – the people's representatives – to fund our schools. This is the people’s business, done by the people’s house through the wonderfully untidy – but open for all to see – business of appropriations. Let us resolve that our schools remain open and are not closed by the courts or anyone else.
This quote was the most discussed part of the governor’s speech. It was widely covered as a swipe at the Kansas Supreme Court. Below are a few articles covering the State of the State address.
Sen. Jay Emler (R-Lindsborg) was confirmed by the Kansas Senate on last week to a four-year term at the Kansas Corporation Commission. Emler is an attorney with significant experience in energy issues. The KBA congratulates Emler on his new position.
Next week looks to be very busy with Chief Justice Lawton Nuss giving the State of the Judiciary address at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22. A live webcast of the address is available by following the Watch Supreme Court Live! link in the right-hand column of the Kansas Judicial Branch website.
The KBA will have its first hearing of the session when HB 2398, dealing with the Revised LLC Act, is heard at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 23. KBA BOG member Bill Quick is on the team that revised the LLC Act and he will be attending the hearing.
Finally the KBA is currently monitoring the following bills:
These bills were introduced last week. This information can be found on each of the Sections’ webpages. For instance, you can find the criminal law proposals online at https://ksbar.site-ym.com/members/group_content_view.asp?group=110849&id=336266.