At midnight tonight the Kansas legislature will be halfway to concluding its work for the 2014 session. Turnaround is a very big deadline that allows legislators and lobbyist to take a breath and evaluate the current state of the Capitol. Thus far, 2014 has seen some very controversial items make national news. It started with the proposal to criminalize surrogacy, moved on to attacks on sustainability bench marks, Common Core standards took significant heat, corporal punishment reared its head, and the proponents of religious freedom passed an anti-gay bill in the Kansas House. This last item has gone nationwide with several other states taking up the cause only to realize it was a publicity nightmare. Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Kansas all took turns trying to push the religious freedom bill. Arizona got the closest when Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the legislation on Wednesday. However, this is an issue that has the public paying attention, which means it will be around probably until Gannon is released.
These controversial bills and their current status can be found below:
With so much of the airtime being eaten up with these controversial bills, not many actually realized the number of bills affecting the Kansas Judicial Branch. The majority came from the Senate and Sen. Jeff King (R-Independence). These judicial branch proposals ranged from funding issues, to ruling deadlines, to local control by chief judges, and to prohibitions against judicial branch lobbyist. The number of bills is only dwarfed by their variety.
For more information on these judicial branch bills please see the following:
HB 2303 – Non-judicial personnel 2 percent market level pay increase
This bill places an additional fee on DUI license reinstatements. This additional fee will be used to pay for interlock devices and for pay increases for nonjudicial personnel. This will bring them closer to private sector employee pay. Gov. Brownback signed this bill into law on February 3, 2014.
SB 313 – Docket fee increases
This bill increases the docket fee on certain chapter 60 cases by $12. It also imposes a new fee of $195 for motions for summary judgment. Part of these new fees will be used to complete the E-Court project and provide ongoing maintenance for e-courts. The remainder can be used to fund general judicial branch functions. It is estimated that this bill will generate $6.2 million and $3.1 million of this will be placed in a lock box for e-courts. The remainder would go to court operations.
SB 287 – Jurisdiction of Magistrate Judges
This bill would allow magistrate judges to hear more cases, including uncontested divorces and certain limited action cases when both parties consent. The bill also allows for magistrate jury trial to be appealed to the Kansas Court of Appeals instead of the district court. This bill passed the Senate 38-1.
SB 288 – Debts to the Court
This bill allows collection agents and attorneys to provide services to the court to collect on orders of restitution. The docket fee normally associated with these types of limited actions shall be waived in these instances. This bill passed the Senate 39-1.
Senate Sub for HB 2072 - Time limits for decisions by courts
This bill imposes time limits for district, Court of Appeals, and the Kansas Supreme Court. The time period to issue decisions runs from 120 to 180 days. If the decision is not entered within 190 days all counsel SHALL file a joint request to the court that the decision be issued without delay. If the court fails to issue a decision after the joint motion all parties shall ask for an intended date of decision. Senate Sub for HB 2070 was passed 32-7.
SB 364 – District chief judge authority to expend funds.
This bill allows the allocation of the budget for each judicial district to the chief judge of that district. Sen. King introduced this bill as a way to make more efficient use of judicial dollars. KDJA, KBA, and some county court employee groups opposed the bill as drafted and as amended by Sen. King.
SB 365 – Chief Judge of judicial district elected by district court judges.
Simply put this bill requires that district judges in each judicial district and the judges of the court of appeals elect their chief judge.
Four other bills aimed at the judicial branch failed to make the turnaround deadline. They include:
HB 2016 - Repealing K.S.A. 21-105; one judge per county
Rep. Lance Kinzer has appointed a subcommittee to study the one judge per county issue. The subcommittee has not provided a report of their discussions.
Finally, here are the remaining judicial branch bills. They include:
There were also a number of family law bills that were important to the KBA. They include the following:
- SB 302, Rending surrogate parenting contracts unenforceable and creating an unclassified misdemeanor
- SB 329, Clarifying court orders relating to parents in juvenile offender cases
- SB 368, Custody, visitation and residency of a child with certain relatives
- SB 389, Domestic case management
- SB 394, Enacting the foster parents’ bill of rights
- 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 2568, Domestic relations; Kansas family law code; child support guidelines
- HB 2577, Allowing parents to remain anonymous when surrendering an infant under the newborn protection act
- HB 2586, Office of the ombudsman concerning child abuse; established
- HB 2588, Child in need of care; juvenile offenders; permanent custodians
- HB 2604, Domestic Relations, divorce, division of property, maintenance
- HB 2716, Adoptions
- HB 2718, Parentage, establishing the putative father registry
The KBA opposed three family law bills. None of these bills made it past the deadline.
The KBA supported HB 2568, which was a continuation by the Kansas judicial council recodification of the domestic code. HB 2568 passed the House on Thursday, February 27.
The KBA introduced two bills this session. Both of them were given hearings and passed out of the Kansas House earlier this week. They include:
HB 2398 - Amending the Kansas Revised Limited Liability Act
The Kansas Bar Association Legislative Committee organized a subcommittee to revise the Kansas Revised Limited Liability Act (KRLLCA). The subcommittee, comprised of Bill Quick, Prof. Webb Hecker, Bill Matthews, Joe Jarvis, Joe McLean, and Ryan Kriegshauser, worked with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office to determine which statutes dealt need to be updated to conform to the Delaware code. The subcommittee also identified specific statutes that required revision due to recent case law.
HB 2444 – Spendthrift Trusts
HB 2444 is a bill the KBA originally introduced in 2010. The bill was referred to the Judicial Council for further study and they introduced their version in 2011. Both bills died in committee. After reevaluating the issue the KBA Real Estate, probate and Trust Section recommended the original 2010 version be reintroduced.
The KBA opposed two other bills with mixed results. The KBA opposed SB 311 dealing with noneconomic damages and HB 2650 dealing with Benefit corporations.
SB 311 – Increasing the Cap on Non-Economic Damages
This bill increases the cap on non-economic damages to $350,000 by 2022. The tradeoff is the use of collateral source evidence and a shift to the federal expert witness standard. The KBA has policies opposing both of these changes. It is important to note that the KBA has no position on the cap on noneconomic damages. The KBA only opposed the collateral source issue and the Daubertissue.
HB 2650 – Benefit corporations
This bill was introduced by a national group called BLABS. The premise is to create a new business entity whose mission is to be good community neighbors while making a profit. This bill would allow corporations to avoid the business judgment rule when they act in an altruistic fashion rather than for pure profit. The KBA opposed this bill because we have a subcommittee that will revise the entire general corporation code. The subcommittee would like to review this issue and apply a Kansas specific answer. The subcommittee is comprised of Bill Quick, Bill Matthews, Joe Jarvis, Bob Alderson, Prof. Webb Hecker, Bill Wood, and Virginia Harper Ho.
HB 2721 - enacting the business entity standard treatment act
This bills was introduced by the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office as a way to unify all filing aspects of business entities in Kansas. The KBA is reviewing this bill. This bill failed to pass by the turnaround deadline but was "blessed” when it was referred to the Committee on Taxation, which is an exempt committee. This is a drastic overhaul which should be carefully studied.