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Veto Session Outlook

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, April 5, 2016

About the Author

Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director


The Kansas legislature will resume its work on Wednesday, April 27. There is hallway talk that the session could last a few days, unlike last year’s record-breaking occurrence. During veto session, leadership determines when the session will come to an end; this could last from a few days to several weeks. This year, with a busy first week back, it is not unreasonable to believe the session will last more than a week.

The main issue is how poorly the April Consensus Revenue Estimates tend to come back. If revenue falls just short—like in March ($1.6 million under)—then things will move quickly. But if things get worse and numbers run similar to February ($54 million under), we may be in for a longer haul. News reports have indicated the governor has several options he could use to shore up the state budget. Sweeping from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is always a consideration, and using his newly created authority to borrow from The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) dollars is another. The governor could also sell off future tobacco payments to stabilize the budget, but that seems unlikely.

The Kansas Supreme Court’s budget is in a very different position. After discussions with OJA and KDJA representatives, the judicial branch should be able to maintain its current level of service without interruptions if the major portions of the FY 15 budget remain in place. However, the judicial branch could be impacted if revenues plunge, forcing the governor to make across-the-board cuts to deal with any budget shortfall.

Forgoing that scenario, focus is on the future of the judicial branch. Sen. King introduced two bills dealing with this issue: The first is SB 440 that appears to clarify the role the Kansas Supreme Court plays in the judicial branch. The other bill, SB 454 deals with docket fees and gives authority to the Kansas Supreme Court to set rates. Both bills have been passed by the Kansas Senate.

SB 440

Supreme court’s authority of the judicial branch

SB 454

Docket fees

The Kansas House introduced their own fix to the Solomon decision and it is quite simple. Under their proposal, the judicial budget would return 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 bill, House Sub for SB 255, cleared the Kansas House 122-0. The faith of the bill will be determined by the Judicial Conference Committee and its 6 members.

OJA also recommended raises for judges and staff, along with funds to fill the 80 full-time positions and other positions recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission. Unfortunately, the legislature does not have the funds to make these recommendations law. Moreover, during a hearing on the topic, many found raises for judges to be ludicrous, and they would be more inclined to increase salaries for staff. The bill did not make it out of committee.

During Veto Session conference committee negotiated bills that have passed both chambers, but in different forms. These bills are considered “bills in conference”. The conference committee also discussed bills that have only passed one chamber. These bills are referred to as “conferenceable” bills. The committee can bundle bills that satisfy a subject matter test including those bills only passed by one chamber. For our purposes, many issues will be discussed in the Judiciary Conference Committee (JCC). The JCC consist of six members, the chair, vice-chair and ranking minority members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. The Senate members are Sen. Jeff King (chair), Sen. Greg Smith (vice-chair) and Se. David Haley (ranking minority). The House is represented by Rep. John Barker (chair), Rep. Charles Macheers (vice-chair) and Rep. John Carmichael (ranking minority).

Below are a few bills that are being considered in the JCC.

House Sub for SB 128

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

A bill expanding the number of nominees from no less than three to no more than five has passed the Kansas House and been discussed in conference committee. This bill, House sub for SB 128, would amend the process for filling district court judge vacancies. Specifically, when the district judicial nominating commission (commission) stops accepting nominations, the bill would require the chairperson to make the name of each person whose nomination is accepted available to the public no less than ten days prior to submitting the nominees’ names to the governor.

There is a strong possibility that House sub for SB 128 will be bundled with SB 197. SB 197 would amend and create law related to the roster of Kansas attorneys, the selection of the chairperson and lawyer members of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, selection of lawyer members of judicial district nominating commissions, and the applicability of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) and Kansas Open Records Act (KORA). The KBA opposes this bill.

The KBA continues to work for passage of HB 2713 dealing with the Kansas General Corporate Code. HB 2713 has passed one chamber and is a conferenceable bill. The KBA hopes to find an avenue for passed through the conference committee process.

The Kansas Legislative Research Department has complied a listing of those bills that have already passed the legislature and been signed into law by the governor. Those new laws can be found here:

Finally, the KBA will host a CLE at the Capitol on May 4 beginning at noon. All lawyer/legislators are welcomed to attend this free hour of Ethics CLE. The KBA would like to thank the Kansas Disciplinary Office for agreeing to present at this year’s CLE.

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