Week two of the Kansas legislative session was an extra short week since the Capitol was closed on Monday to observe Martin Luther King Day. The week was shortened even further when the majority of legislators attended the funeral of Rep. Marvin Kleeb’s wife, who passed away after a long battle with cancer. Our condolences to Rep. Kleeb and his family. Nevertheless, it was still quite busy.
The focal point of the week was Chief Lawton Nuss’ State of the Judiciary address. If interested, the entire address is available at http://bit.ly/2014StateoftheJudiciary.
The chief justice made his address from the Kansas Supreme Courtroom. It was quite the affair with a large number of legislators in attendance. Nuss focused the majority of his speech on the judicial budget. He thanked legislators for passing HB 2303 earlier in the day. HB 2303 allows the collection of a DUI license reinstatement fee that will be used to bring non-judicial personnel salaries up to market level. Even with this issue behind, the FY 2015 judicial budget looks bleak. The judicial branch still faces an $8.5 million shortfall beginning in July. Nuss mentioned the work of the Court Budget Advisory Council, which made several recommendations, one of which was a lengthy furlough and closing of courthouses. Seehttp://www.kscourts.org/pdf/CBAC-Report-12132013.pdf.
Overall the address appeared to be effective, but I am not sure how legislators will react to the underfunded issue having just approved a pay raise for court employees. It should also be noted that this good natured and well-received address will fade very quickly should the Supreme Court require additional funding in the Gannon case. For more insight, please seehttp://www.kansas.com/2014/01/23/3243457/eagle-editorial-state-courts-are.html.
When open, the Capitol was quite busy this week with a number of hearings and rallies going on. The biggest rally was the held on Wednesday, January 22when Kansans for Life marked the 41stanniversary of Roe v. Wade. This is of interest to the KBA because the head of the organization stated that their top priority was to change the judicial selection method; Kansans for Life support a Federal Model approach. The KBA was brought into this issue when they stated that the KBA controlled the selection process. For more information on this issue please seehttp://cjonline.com/news/2014-01-22/anti-abortion-group-seeks-supreme-court-changes.
This erroneous claim that the KBA is involved with, or controls, the merit selection process has been going around for some time. Gov. Sam Brownback made a similar statement when he signed HB 2019 into law last session. The KBA is making every effort to correct those who make these false claims as quickly as possible.
The KBA was allowed its first hearing of the session when HB 2398 was heard in House Judiciary Committee. HB 2398 is a two-year project that revised the entire Kansas Limited Liability Company Act (KRLLCA). Prof. Webb Hecker represented the KBA; and the hearing went quite well. The committee should take up this issue soon.
You should pay special attention next week to a number of bills aimed at the judicial branch. They include:
These bills were introduced by Sen. Jeff King, and he believes these will make the judicial branch more efficient. Hearings were tentatively set for next week but they were pulled off the calendar on Monday. The KBA will be tracking these issues on our website at http://www.ksbar.org/judicialservices.
Finally, the KBA is currently monitoring the following bills:
The KBA plans on providing written remarks on HB 2450, which would remove the term "best interest of the child.” The KBA has heard from a number of groups and individuals who feel this is a very poor policy change. A hearing on this bill is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 30 in the Committee on Children and Seniors.
For a full listing of bills being monitored please follow our 2014 Bill tracking chart http://www.ksbar.org/?bill_tracking.