The Kansas Legislature reconvened at 8
a.m. today to finalize last week’s "Hard 50” proposal. Committees on both
sides of the aisle will work this week to fix the sentencing structure for the
most heinous of crimes. The Kansas Legislature is responding to a U.S. Supreme
Court case that found certain sentencing guidelines to be unconstitutional when
imposed by a judge and not a jury. The full opinion can be found online at http://www.kslegislature.org/li_2013s/documents/us_supreme_court_decision_alleyne_v_us.pdf/ and a report from the Special Committee on
Judiciary can be found at http://skyways.lib.ks.us/ksleg/KLRD/2013CommRpts/spc-judiciary-cr.pdf.
The plan will be for the House to debate and pass the "Hard 50”
proposal first, then sending it over to the Senate Wednesday or Thursday before
a final Senate vote. The bill should be on the governor’s desk shortly
It is also important to remember that legislators cannot receive or
solicit any campaign contributions while they are in session. Be mindful of
that little hiccup in the fundraising rules.
Judicial funding will play a role this week
as the Kansas Supreme Court requests additional funds for this fiscal year in
anticipation the 14th Court of Appeals judge position is confirmed. The Supreme
Court will need money to complete renovations, hire staff, and pay other bills
not in the original budget. A supplemental funds request has already been sent
over to the Legislature for their consideration.
addition, I reported in my "Legislative Wrap–Up” article (found
in the KBA July/August Journal) that the Supreme Court "should be able to
avoid furloughs during the two-year budget cycle” by using unencumbered funds. While
still a possibility it remains unclear if the Court will be able to avoid
furloughs in the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2014. This July/August
article was referencing the 2013/2014 fiscal years. As such the Kansas Supreme
Court will be working vigorously to secure funds to keep courthouses open but the
2015 outlook appears uncertain at this moment.
Besides the "Hard 50” legislative fix, the
Kansas Senate will hold a confirmation hearing for Caleb Stegall, who was
nominated to take the 14th Court of Appeals position last month. The Stegall
confirmation has been at the top of most newspaper in the last week or so. The
following articles have been published concerning the Stegall nomination.
a significant Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee and in the
Kansas Senate as a whole, Stegall’s confirmation seems secure. We can
anticipate opponents to discuss the method of Stegall’s nomination, the lack of
transparency in the selection process (Brownback refuses to release names of
applicants) and the executive branches redaction of names from a KORA request submitted
by the Kansas League of Women Voters and other issues dealing with the process
of selecting a Kansas appellate judge. However, in the end, the votes are there
for an easy confirmation of Caleb Stegall.