The Kansas Legislature will reach its halfway point of the 2017 session in two weeks. This means that certain non-exempt bills must advance out of their house of introduction, or be considered dead for the remainder of the session. However, several exempt committees continue to work through legislative initiatives. Exempt committees include House Appropriations, Senate Ways and Means, House and Senate Federal and State Affairs and House Taxation. 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 creates a sense of urgency throughout the legislature as they continue to take action on bills passed out of various committees this week. Thus far, the Kansas Senate has made the most progress on pressing budgetary issues. The Senate Tax Committee chaired by Sen. Caryn Tyson plans to move a tax bill out as early as today. That plan calls for $288 million in new revenue in FY18 and $370 million in FY19. The hearing found far more opponents to raising taxes than proponents. Per the norm, opponents seek massive funding cuts to balance the books. That sentiment was echoed by Gov. Brownback who put out a press release tying this bill to Senate President Susan Wagle, who called it harmful to teachers, police officers and nurses. This bill may even be debated on the Senate floor as early as tomorrow.
On the judicial branch front, I can report that HB 2041 extending the judicial branch surcharge fund was recommended favorably for passage by the House Judiciary Committee. This bill merely extends the sunset date. The KBA advocated against removing the sunset because this surcharge fee was first proposed as a temporary stop gap measure. The KBA reiterated its position that judicial funding should be a state general fund appropriation. HB 2041 now heads to the House floor for debate by the entire chamber.
The House General Government Budget committee also recommended the judicial branch budget be passed favorably. The Senate Ways & Means Committee also reviewed the judicial branch recommendations and decided to place the judicial branch budget into the entire state budget. This is different than past years where the judicial branch budget was a stand-alone item.
The judicial branch has been able to reduce past requests for staffing due to efficiencies put in place. This year’s budget bill only added 20 new FTE whereas in years past the request was for 80. E-Filing has helped with this reduction. The budget request also seeks eight new judges with accompanying staff, and funds to remodel the judicial center so all judges can be housed on the upper floors. The plan is to have the clerk’s office move permanently to the first floor to aid in security and public access. We will continue to monitor the progress of the budget and report accordingly. With state funding at a premium, these requests may be axed during the debate, but adding the judicial funding package to the mega-appropriations bill is a step in the right direction.
Thus far this session the KBA has testified on seven bills, four of which were introduced by the KBA. Two are bills the KBA supports, and one is a bill the KBA is negotiating to amend.
Last week the KBA received hearings on all four of its bills.
Tim O’Sullivan testified for the KBA on HB 2126 & HB 2127. Both bills deal with trust issues. There is some concern that our proposal clarifying transfer on death deed (HB 2127) is too complicated so the committee may attempt to streamline the process.
Larry Rute testified for the KBA on HB 2186 revising the uniform arbitration act of 2000. Many thanks to him for his efforts along with Prof. Jim Concannon for the ULC.
Finally, House Judiciary heard from Bill Matthews and Prof. Webb Hecker on the benefit corporation proposal, HB 2125. They were joined by Bryan Welch CEO of B the Change Media in Lawrence. Matthews and Hecker provided foundational information for our proposal along with specific enhancements needed to enact Benefit Corporation statutes into current law. Welch provided the practical application of the law as it concerned his benefit corporation.
Bill Tracking Chart
This bill is supported by Rep. Boog Highberger and Rep. John Wilson. We worked with both legislators on this bill.
For a list of all other bills being monitored by the KBA please visit: www.ksbar.org/page/bill_tracking. You will be able to link to bill language, hearing schedules and read testimony on certain bills of interest.