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Politics Coming to a Head

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director


The Kansas Legislature took some interesting turns this week as the session approaches Drop Dead day. The Senate tried to override the governor’s veto of the Docking building contract, but relented on the fears of another downgrade in the state’s bond rating. Both chambers have come up with school finance proposals that attempt to satisfy the court’s ruling, and House democrats were able to send an anti-refugee bill back to committee.

For issues concerning the courts, the most public issue was the effort to expand the grounds for which justices can be impeached.  That bill, SB 439, was passed out of committee yesterday on a 7-4 vote. Senators King, Haley, Pettey and McGinn all voted no. The bill was amended to include the executive branch.  Next stop is the Senate floor where it is expected to pass since 18 senators are co-sponsors of the bill.

However, public scrutiny of this issue has been wide spread.

Kansas Conservatives Advance Bill on Impeachment of Judges – AP News;

Judge impeachment bill moves to Kansas Senate floor – Wichita Business Journal;

Bill would allow impeachment of Kansas Supreme Court justices –;

Frustrated Kansas GOP lawmakers weigh move to impeach top judges – KS Star

The most pointed support for SB 439 came from Sen. Forrest Knox who called the Kansas Supreme Court members kings and that their actions should have political consequences.

Another interesting issue deals with the Supreme Court authority of the judicial branch. As previously reported, Sen. King introduced two bills that would fix the judicial branch budget after the Solomon case struck down laws passed in 2014 and 2015.  This fix was in the form of SB 440 and SB 454. SB 440 rebuilds the wall between the courts and the legislature by providing the Kansas Supreme Court with authority over the judicial branch.  SB 440 passed the Senate on Feb. 23 with a 28-9 vote. However, SB 454 that provides key funding provisions including docket fee authority has been passed over in the Senate and has still not been debated. 

As such, the House Judiciary Committee took it upon themselves to fix the judicial budget by returning the court to the position it held immediately prior to the Solomon ruling. This would include all docket fee authority, dispositive motion fees, and surcharge limits.  Everything would be put back into place except for the non-severability clause and the provisions the Solomon case found unconstitutional. The new bill will be House Sub for SB 255 and it should be out early next week.

The KBA also provided neutral testimony on SB 393 dealing with domestic violence and child custody/parenting time. The bill was opposed by several judges, one of which chairs the Family Law Advisory Committee for the Kansas Judicial Council. 

The Senate also introduced SB 503 this week which mandates the Department of Corrections develop rules and regulations to incentivize community corrections and court service officers to consolidate operations.  This proposal comes from the A&M efficiency study.  The bill was referred to Senate Corrections, but is unlikely to get a hearing.

The Kansas House passed two probate bills this week: SB 319 dealing with venue and SB 321 dealing with protective wills. The KBA originally introduced SB 321 in 2015. The KBA was also able to get the UCC Article 9 amendments passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Finally, HB 2713 update to the general corporate code is up for hearing on Wednesday, March 16.

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