Week three has been the busiest of the session thus far. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard a number of bills and worked most of the criminal bills that increased penalties. Chairman Jeff King stated that the committee will slow down a bit now that a lot of the issues overlapping from the Special Session have been discussed. This indicates that there is little likelihood that the death penalty repeal issue will be worked this session.
The House Judiciary Committee had an equally busy week. The House focused on trespass laws, interference with judicial process, and a very controversial bill dealing with the Fourth Amendment. The KBA had a hearing on HB 2398 dealing with amendments to the Kansas LLC Act. KU Law Professor Webb Hecker presented testimony for the KBA. The bill was well received and should be move forward in the legislative process. There is a strong chance that Rep. Lance Kinzer will introduce an amendment based on a recent Court of Appeals case. To view testimony on this bill, please visit http://www.ksbar.org/?2014testimony.
In addition, the KBA testified against a bill that would have removed the "best interest of the child” standard. This bill, HB 2450, would have created a new standard, "least detrimental alternative.” The KBA Family Law Committee recommended the KBA oppose the bill. The KBA received numerous comments regarding this bill. The KBA worked closely with the Wichita Bar Association, Wichita Family Law Committee, CASA, and several individual family lawyers. Also offering testimony was the Office of Judicial Administration, Department of Children and Families, and Judge Dan Cahill. To view testimony on this bill, please visit http://www.ksbar.org/?2014testimony.
The supporters of HB 2450 provided anecdotal evidence of poor enforcement of CINC and mandatory reporters. The committee would like to focus on that issue and leave the best interest of the family standard alone. The Committee on Children and Seniors took no action.
The KBA also monitored SB 302, which criminalizes surrogacy contracts. This bill was the most controversial of the week. The proponents believed that paid surrogacy contracts commercialized the process and turned birth mothers into factory farms. The Catholic Church also provided supporting testimony for SB 302. Opponents of this bill brought their children conceived through surrogacy or IVF to put a face to a cause. The most powerful statement and early front runner for quote of the year was made by an ob-gyn who stated that if passed SB 302 would have criminalized the birth of Jesus. The next morning the chair, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), killed the bill.
Week three saw some very controversial issues. Besides the surrogacy bill, House Judiciary debated HB 2421,
the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act. This bill,
introduced by Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R- Shawnee), would have limited the
tools law enforcement could use to investigate crime. The Kansas County
and District Attorney Association opposed this bill. In addition, the
House Federal and State Affairs Committee heard HB 2453,
which protected religious freedom regarding marriage. The intent of the
bill was to allow individuals with a strongly held religious belief the
ability to refuse services to certain individuals. The Fed/State
Committee also heard the HB 2473,
which would prohibit cities and counties from regulation firearms. Rep.
Jim Howell (R-Derby) introduced the bill that includes a provision
restricting local governments from holding gun buyback programs if the
weapon would be destroyed. The local government could resell the weapon
or transfer to law enforcement but removing the gun from circulation was
prohibited. See http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2014/jan/31/legislator-questions-whether-local-government-lobb/.
There are a number of bills up for hearing next week that should be of interest to the Judicial Branch. They include:
These bills were introduced by Sen. Jeff King. King believes these bills will make the Judicial Branch more efficient.
The KBA will also testify against SB 311. This bill increases the cap on non-economic damages but allows evidence of collateral source and changes expert witness testimony rules to follow the federal model. The KBA opposes those two provisions. SB 311 is set for hearing at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 6.
The bills of interest in the House include:
The KBA introduced HB 2444. HB 2444 is set for hearing at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 6. Tim O’Sullivan will represent the KBA.
The KBA will also support HB 2446, which addresses an issue in the 2nd Judicial District. The 2nd Judicial District is comprised of Jefferson, Jackson, Wabaunsee, and Pottawatomie counties. The 2nd Judicial District closed their trustee office in 1997. This left a residual balance in the operating fund of approximately $36,000. HB 2446 would allow the chief judge to authorize expenditures from the fund. It is important to note that this bill would only give a chief judge authority to use those court trustee funds when the office of court trustees has ceased to exist.
The following were introduced last week. They can also be found each of the sections’ webpages.
Finally, we can expect a number of bills concerning case managers to be discussed in the coming weeks as well as a new constitutional amendment to change how we pick Kansas Supreme Court justices. This bill was introduced by Rep. Scott Schwab in the House Tax Committee. When these bills are made public I will include them in items to discuss.