Kansas Senate Proposal
The Kansas Judicial Branch Budget was front and center this week. Senate Sub. for HB 2338 was read into the Kansas House on Monday. This substitute bill was put together by Sens. King and Masterson in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Senate Sub. for HB 2338 contained the judicial branch budget bill proposed by Sen. King (see SB 313). However, it also contained two non-budgetary items that the KBA and the KDJA strongly opposed (see SB 364 and SB 365). The Kansas House received this substitute bill and promptly voted to nonconcur. This means that the substitute bill will go to a conference committee to be reviewed. The House appointed Reps. Rhoades, Kinzer, and Henry (D). The Senate appointed Sen. Masterson, Sen. King and Sen. Petty (D).
Senate Sub. for HB 2338 contained the following budget recommendations:
- Appropriate $2 million from the State General Fund (SGF) to offset the docket fee/surcharge fee shortfall;
- Require a $195 filing fee for summary judgment;
- Allow a $12.50 for garnishment requests;
- Increase petitions for expungements by $76;
- Increase KSA Chapter 60 cases by $19;
- Reduce small claims actions by $2; and;
- Create an electronic filing and centralized case management fund (E-COURTS).
It is anticipated the judicial branch will increase its revenue by nearly $10 million. The majority of revenue will come from the summary judgment fee. Sen. King estimates that the judicial branch will receive $6.2 million. The first $3.1 million would go to the e-courts fund with the remainder being used for court operations. An additional $2 million comes straight from SGF to fill the surcharge gap. The balance comes from the HB 2303, which is to be used to fund nonjudicial personnel market level raises.
The biggest concern with the substitute bill is the projected revenue from summary judgment fees is not reliable. The Office of Judicial Administration initially estimated the increase in revenue at $4 million. As stated above, Sen. King thinks it is closer to $6.2 million. This does not take into account the possibility that fewer summary judgments are filed and the potential cost of more trials.
Kansas House Proposal
The House General Government Budget and House Appropriations reviewed the judicial branch budget as well. Their proposals were very different than the Senate version. First, they did not agree to any of the proposals outlined in Senate Sub. for HB 2338. The consensus was the bundled bill was unacceptable because it avoided the bicameral legislative process. Both house budget committees stated that they would be interested in taking up Sen. King’s proposals individuals. House Appropriations scheduled an information hearing for on Monday, March 17 to go over the bills in Senate Sub. for HB 2338.
Rep. DeGraaf chairs the General Government Budget Committee and his committee made the following recommendations:
Begin with Governor's Rec.
Delete funding for longevity
Delete salary cap offset
Delete surcharge and docket fee shortfall
Delete funding for 80 positions
FY14 to FY15 savings
Add Judicial Center Remodel
Recommended FY15 Appropriation
The recommendation also indicated that research needs to be done to decrease duplication of library materials and resources between the Judicial Center, the State Library, Washburn Law Library, and Legislative Research.
The recommendation also requested the Appropriations Committee examine the provisions of HB 2338 (the Senate judicial omnibus bill) when the judicial budget recommendations are considered.
Finally, the recommendation deletes 13 vacant court reporter positions at the end of FY14. The judicial branch is instructed to abolish 18 full-time employee court reporters during FY15; and $180,000 ($10,000 per position) will be transferred to the technology fund to be used for grants to the district courts for the implementation of electronic recording. Rep. DeGraaf stated that the cost of an electronic recording system runs between $7,000 and $12,000. The remaining savings from the 18 positions will remain in the judicial branch budget.
Also interesting is statements made by Rep. Peck who agreed to an appropriation to renovate the Supreme Court. Rep. Peck implied that the judicial center remodel funds could be used as extra funds to avoid violating pay-go. Look for these funds to be redirected when the budget is worked on the House floor.
The Kansas Supreme Court has taken notice of the proposed changes and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss wrote a very pointed opinion letter. Chief Justice Nuss claims that there is a link between budget increases and court issues that diffuses the unified court system. See http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/17/4896714/lawton-r-nuss-kansas-legislature.html. The Kansas City Star wrote an article outlining the tension between the Court and Legislature. See http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/17/4897300/top-kansas-judge-criticizes-bill.html.
The KBA had a hearing on SB 311 in House Commerce and Economic Development on Monday, March 17. The KBA has submitted testimony opposing the collateral source and Daubertprovisions.
The KBA also has hearings on HB 2444, dealing with spendthrift trusts, on Tuesday, March 18 and HB 2568, dealing with the domestic code recodification, on Wednesday, March 19. Both are set to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.