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Nearing Mid-Session

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Kansas Legislature will reach its halfway point of the 2016 session on Saturday, February 27th with the passage of the House of Origin deadline, marking the date in which all non-exempt legislation must advance out of its house of introduction, or is considered dead for the remainder of the session. However, several exempt committees continue to work through legislative initials. These exempt committees include House Appropriations, Senate Ways and Means, House and Senate Federal and State Affairs and House Taxation. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are not exempt committees and all legislation must be passed out prior to the deadline to be considered.

This deadline has created a sense of urgency throughout the Kansas Legislature as they continue to take action on bills passed out of various committees this week. Non-exempt committees that meet in the afternoon have until February 26 to get bills out, while morning committees will have until the 27th, after which both chambers will be on the floor debating bills. Even numbered years are considered the out year for legislation as House members will all be up for elections this November. As such, legislation that does not pass this session must be reintroduced next year.

Thus far the session and most of the state has been focused on the budget. January revenues were nearly $7 million below estimates. Coupled with the previous month's deficit, it will be difficult for the Legislature to avoid another round of mid-year budget cuts for this 2016 fiscal year. If things don't improve, and recent history suggests it won’t, the legislature will be dealing with an even larger deficit for 2017 than the $175 million shortfall currently projected.

Adding to the pressure was last week’s Gannon decision that found the school block grant law unequitable. The Kanas Supreme Court stayed the ruling till June 30, 2016 (end of FY16) so the legislature can fix this issue. If the issue is not resolved schools will be closed starting July 1, 2016.

Judicial Budget

In December of 2015 the Kansas Supreme Court ruled on the Solomon case and found provisions in the judicial branch budget for FY 14 (HB 2338) & FY 15(HB 2005) unconstitutional. Those provisions included the requirement that district judges elect their chief judge and that chief judges have greater control of the budget given to them by the Office of Judicial Administration.

Sen. King has introduced two bills dealing with this issue. The first is SB 440 that appears to clarify the role the Supreme Court plays in the judicial branch. The other bill, SB 454 deals with docket fees and gives authority to Supreme Court to set rates. A hearing on SB 440 was set for Monday, February 15th in Senate judiciary committee.

Bill Description

SB 440

Supreme court’s authority of the judicial branch

SB 454

Docket fees

HB 2687

Supreme Court authority over judicial branch

Merit Selection

Two weeks ago changes to the merit selection method, specifically HCR 5005 were voted on by the Kansas House. The KBA working very closely with KSAJ, KADC, KDJA, KS School Board Association, several lawyer legislators and individual KBA members to defeat the proposal 68-54. Constitutional amendments require a 2/3 vote or 84 votes to be approved.

There are several proposals to change merit selection including partisan elections and a change to the make-up of the nominating commission members. HCR 5013 has been scheduled for hearing next Tuesday at 3:30pm in House Judiciary. The KBA will continue to oppose these measures and work with interested parties to defeat these measures.

A new bill expanding the number of nominees from no less than three to no more than five has also been introduced. This bill is set for a hearing in House judiciary on Wednesday, February 17th.

Bill Description

HB 2652

Increasing the number of district court judge nominees sent to the governor by district judicial nominating commissions

KBA Proposals

The KBA introduced three bills this session. They include the following:

Bill Description

HB 2651

Transfer on death deeds, lapsing or vesting of ownership in grantee beneficiary

Revising the Kansas General Corporation Code

HB 2109 clarifies the transfer of ownership in property when the grantor issues a transfer of death deed naming two or more beneficiaries. The bill is designed as an anti-lapse provision allowing the property to vest in the beneficiary’s surviving heirs should the beneficiary die prior to the record owner grantor. This is the fourth version of the proposal and it is very likely that House Judiciary Chairman John Barker will assign this issue to Kansas Judicial Council for an interim study.

The KBA proposed updates to the entire Kansas General Corporation Code. Since October 2014, a special committee of the KBA’s Corporate, Banking, and Business Law Section composed of practitioners and academics (described below) has been considering comprehensive updates to the Kansas General Corporation Code. The committee’s primary focus has been to consider innovations adopted in Delaware and propose corresponding changes made to the DGCL since the last comprehensive KGCC update in the 2000 Legislature. This not only allows Kansas businesses and the Kansas legal community to take advantage of the best body of corporate law, but also to leverage the rich and vast body of judicial precedent based on those statutes. We also sought to identify and correct deficiencies in the present law.

The committee is also composed of Bill Matthews (Chair), a corporation attorney in Wichita, Bob Alderson, a corporate practitioner in Topeka; Webb Hecker, a corporate law professor at KU in Lawrence; Virginia Harper Ho, a corporate law professor at KU in Lawrence; Joseph Jarvis, a corporate practitioner in Lawrence; Garrett Roe, an attorney on the staff of the Secretary of State; Bill Quick, a corporate practitioner in Kansas City; and Bill Wood, a corporate practitioner in Wichita.

Another interesting bill was SB 17 that expands the Kansas Judicial Council by including the chairs of the Senate/House Corrections Committees. This is an uncontroversial bill however; Rep Craig McPherson was able to pass an amendment that allows the governor to appoint 4 lawyers to the committee. At present the Chief Justice appoints four judges and four attorneys to the committee and two legislators (House/Senate judiciary chairs) are members. Should this bill as amended pass the chief justice would appoint 4 judges, the governor would appoint 4 lawyers and the legislator would be represented by 4 members. Efforts to add the ranking minority party committee members were defeated as being political.

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