With bill introductions left to exempt committees and hearings winding down, both chambers are working through a deluge of bills to avoid the drop-dead date of turnaround. All bills that fail to make it out by Friday, February 28 are dead. It is also important to note that this is an even numbered year so no bills will be "held over” to 2015. All bills that miss the cut off will need to be reintroduced next January.
There has been some hallway talk about a truncated session. Rep. Davis called for a 70-day session to avoid the many embarrassing bills that surfaced the past few weeks. This does not seem to be a viable option since Speaker Merrick has refocused on economics and has some serious work left to do. See http://www.kansas.com/2014/02/21/3303060/democratic-leader-calls-for-ending.html.
With the idea of a short session behind us there remain a number of big issues looming. Gannon comes to mind, but there is still no timetable for its release. The Capitol crowd gets a little antsier each passing week, and some are of the opinion we could be waiting till August. How this plays out remains to be seen.
Both of the KBA’s bills were debated on the House Floor this week. Rep. Bruchman carried HB 2398, concerning KS LLC Act, and Rep. Carmichael carried HB 2444, spend thrift trust. I am happy to report that both were passed on final action, 120-1 and 121-0, respectively. We will now work with the Senate to schedule hearings on both bills.
In addition, the KBA provided testimony is opposition to SB 364, allowing the chief judge more discretion in personnel matters. This bill was coupled with SB 365, allowing the district judges to elect the chief judge. Both bills may be worked in the coming days. The Kansas District Judges Association is opposed to both issues. You can find testimony at http://www.ksbar.org/?judicialservices. The Supreme Court is also a little concerned about SB 364 as described in this article from Topeka Capital-Journal. Chief Justice opposes bill to diffuse budget authority, http://cjonline.com/news/2014-02-17/chief-justice-opposes-bill-diffuse-budget-authority.
The KBA provided testimony to oppose HB 2650, benefit corporations. This bill was introduced by a national group called BLABS. The KBA has a subcommittee discussing a revision of the General Corporation Code. It would be preferable to weave this new concept into the revised code rather than have a standalone statute that may not fit. Testimony on HB 2650 will be online this coming week.
This past week was quite the tumultuous affair for some
Kansas legislators. A number continue to feel the wrath of voting for HB
2453, the Religious Freedom Act, while one Kansas House Democrat caught
significant heat for the spanking bill, HB 2699. Both of these bills
helped Kansas make "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Local
newspapers also chimed in on both of these fiascos.
It should also be noted that the morass of bills aimed at domestic relation issues have failed to move forward in the legislative process. The KBA testified against a number of these bills listed below, all of which should die by Friday. These bills are as follows:
- SB 302, Rending surrogate parenting contracts unenforceable and creating an unclassified misdemeanor
- HB 2450, Change in terminology; "best interests of the child" to "least detrimental alternative for the child
- HB 2462, Domestic relations; child custody. residency and parenting plans; child support
- HB 2558, Domestic relations; prohibition of case management process
- HB 2604, Domestic relations, divorce, division of property, maintenance
Looking forward, the KBA supported HB 2568
, which was introduced by the Kansas Judicial Council. Several years back the Judicial Council did a reorganization of all the domestic laws by combining three chapters into one. HB 2568 is a continuation of the project. The KBA supported the initial reorganization and all of the clean-up efforts introduced by the Family Law Advisory Council.
This last week before turnaround is going to be very busy with 30 to 40 bills working their way through the process. Those on the fence will look to exempt committees for a little "blessing” but the Speaker has indicated he will narrow his focus to keep the train on the tracks the remainder of the session. The Senate side could work less than 10 days after turnaround before adjourning. How those days are calculated is the big questions. Nevertheless, the Senate appears to be in a better position as it reaches the first significant deadline of the 2014 session.