Friday, March 20 marked the end of most committee meetings and the push to first adjournment, which is on Friday, April 3—12 days away.
Both chambers finalized their budgets with House Appropriations combining the judicial branch budget with the mega-appropriations budget. The Supreme Court is still underfunded in the House version but nothing that will require furloughing judicial employees this year. The Senate Ways and Means Committee pushed out the judicial branch budget in a single bill. Sen. Jeff King (R-Independence) added docket fee funds, dispositive motion fee funds, and some state general funds to the proposals, but he also recommended that the policy pieces pasted last session continue forward into FY 2016/2017. The idea is to force the court to allow judicial districts the opportunity to control more of their budgets. This recommendation was also a warning shot in response to the Solomon lawsuit filed earlier this year. The Senate proposal was placed into a House bill to allow the House the possibility of a vote to concur without committee hearings on the policy pieces.
The KBA had two hearings last week, which include SB 197, applying open meeting requirements to the Supreme Court nominating commission and SB 105 enacting UIFSA. SB 197 was supported by the Kansas Press Association because of the new provision forcing the governor to release the names and city of applicants to the Kansas Court of Appeals. SB 197 was opposed by the KBA, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas Association for Justice, and Kansas Association of Defense Counsel. There were no oral conferees, all testimony was written. The bill failed to get out of House Judiciary Committee; however, it may come up during conference committees.
SB 105 would enact the uniform interstate family support act. The Kansas Judicial Council introduced this bill and the KBA supports this bill. The Committee on Federal and State Affairs heard the bill and passed it out favorably. The passage of SB 105 protects more than $21 million in federal aid for child support enforcement cases.
The KBA did not fare as well with its probate and trust proposals as all three failed to pass into law. The Senate Judiciary Committee supports HB 2109 clarifying transfer on death deeds but wants more time to craft an amendment. That pushes the issue into the summer and off till next January. The Senate Judiciary Committee also felt that HB 2101 making ADR/mediation enforceable in trust documents was unnecessary as it is current uses without the need of a new statute. Finally, HB 2102 never got a hearing in the House and died at Turnaround.
The KBA did push out three bills this week. They include:
These bills are uncontroversial and should be passed on to the governor prior to the first adjournment deadline.
Also, an undisclosed member of House Appropriations Committee introduced HB 2411.
This bill would abolish the current Court of Appeals and replace it with a Court of Criminal Appeals and a Court of Civil Appeals. This idea was introduced two years ago by former Rep. Lance Kinzer.
HB 2073 also failed to get a hearing and move forward in the process. As you remember HB 2073 deals with retirement ages of judges in Kansas.
Finally, the next two week both chambers will be on the floor debating and passing bills. This will also allow them to conference on a number of bills amended by either chamber. During this period it is common for issues to be incorporated into amended legislation. This is truly the "sausage-making” portion of the session. The KBA Advocate will be providing updates as we move toward First Adjournment.