Legislators returned to what was supposed to be a short uneventful week following turnaround. However, the Kansas Supreme Court decided to release the much-anticipated Gannon v. State of Kansas school finance case. The entire 110-page opinion can be found online at http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2014/20140307/109335.pdf.
The Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that had a bit of everything for everyone. The bullet point version found that the Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the state failed to meet its duty to provide equity in public education as required by the constitution. The Court determined that the state has created "unreasonable, wealth-based disparities” by failing to fund Capital Outlay and the Local Option Budget (LOB). The Supreme Court recommended that the lower court provide the legislature with the opportunity to address the inequities and request action by July 1, 2014. Those changes could come in the form of fully funding, partially funding, or making changes to the current statutes. To fully fund LOB and Capital Outlay the legislature would have to come up with roughly $139 million.
The really big issue dealing with suitability was remanded to the three-judge panel so they may apply the "Rose Standard” and return a finding based on that process. The Supreme Court found that a cost based focus was too narrow.
For more information on this issue and some local reactions, including the KBA response, please see the following:
The other really big news was the Kansas Senate passing the Judicial Branch Omnibus bill, Senate Sub. for HB 2338. This bill combines a number of judicial branch issues together and passed them out of the Senate in one afternoon. The procedural move was a little unorthodox as it combined appropriations and substantive amendments into one bill. This is usually an unconstitutional two subject problem but it was glossed over in the Senate. A number of House members were upset as this omnibus bill will bypass the normal appropriation committees in the House and head straight to the House floor for a vote to concur or nonconcur. How the House handles this omnibus bill remains to be seen but we can expect higher scrutiny of the judicial branch budget on the House side.
Next week we have a full slate in both chambers as First Adjournment is right around the corner. The KBA has a hearing on HB 2398 dealing with the Kansas LLC Act on Wednesday in the Senate. We continue to wait on the medical malpractice bill, SB 311 to be set for hearing in the House. It should be noted that SB 311 was referred to the Committee on Commerce, which has no sitting lawyers.