After a rather slow start to the final leg of the 2015 legislative session things began to pick up in week two. The governor announced a deal on wind energy yesterday, making the Renewable Portfolio Standard voluntary in exchange for property tax exemptions. This was a huge issue in 2014 that spilled over to 2015. Not much had been done on RPS so this agreement was a bit of a surprise.
Another big news item was movement of the Kris Kobach bill (SB 34) to allow the Kansas secretary of state to prosecute voter fraud cases. This bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee after a decent debate. Now it heads to the House floor.
The judicial branch budget is being debated in the Senate today. HB 2005 contains $97.6 million in Stage General Fund and provisions to extend the surcharge fee ($9.5 million), allow the transfer of e-filing funds ($2.25 million), and expands fees for all dispositive motions ($575,000). HB 2005 fails to fund the Judicial Branch at the original budget request of around $110 million. The big hold up is the non-severability clause added to the budget bill to keep 2014 policy pieces in place. Currently there is a lawsuit challenging these 2014 policy pieces. See https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Buying_Time/Petition%20for%20Declaratory%20Judgment%202-18-15.pdf.
Should the court grant the declaratory judgment the non-severability clause would be enforceable and funds to the judicial branch would be at risk.
The House has its own version of the judicial branch budget. That bill, HB 2365, is very similar to the Senate proposal with similar funding numbers. However, the House version lacks the non-severability provision but contains a proviso to study merging the Supreme Court Law Library with the Washburn Law School Library. This proviso, proposed by Rep. Virgil Peck (R-Tygo), requires the Supreme Court to fund a report to the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees on the feasibility of Washburn Law School assuming the duties of the Kansas Supreme Court Law Library.
Also please look for the quick passage of the BEST Act concerning business filings. That bill, SB 276, was placed on the Consent Calendar yesterday.
Finally, the Kansas Bar Association is hosting a CLE at the Capitol again this year. This CLE is free to any lawyer-legislator. Stan Hazlett will provide an hour of ethics on Wednesday, May 6.