Last week, Senate judiciary heard and worked the KBA proposal concerning ADR in Trust instruments. The bill is uncontroversial and was passed out favorably on Wednesday, March 20. The committee also heard HB 2041 which extends the judicial surcharge fee through FY19. That bill was also passed out of committee on Wednesday but the committee decided to add another judicial funding bill focused on DUI reinstatement fees. That bill, HB 2279, is worth $950K to the court, and if the bill is not approved, the court will face a shortfall for the next 2 fiscal years. Both pieces of legislation should go to the Senate floor before the next deadline.
The Senate judiciary committee also heard HB 2125 concerning benefit corporations. Unfortunately, the committee decided not to work the bill, so it remains in committee. To pass the bill this session, it will need to navigate the conference committee process. This is a viable option that is amenable to both chairs. If you recall, the KBA used the same process last session to pass the General Corporate Code update.
On Monday, House judiciary heard HB 2397, dealing with the Unauthorized Practice of Law. It passed out of committee on Thursday. The bill was amended to include further clarification that court employees and court-approved individuals (think CASA and domestic abuse advocates) were exempt for this law. The committee then used a procedure called bundling to add the UPL bill (HB 2397) to a senate bill dealing with the lack of lawyers in the Senate (SB 50). Thus, the provisions for the UPL bill are now embedded into SB 50. If you are interested in tracking this bill as it moves through the process, the bill to watch is House substitute for SB 50.
The judicial branch funding issue has gotten considerably more complicated this week as Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) added pay increases for classified and non-classified state employees. The idea was to give non-classified employees and correction officers a two percent increase but give all classified employees a six percent raise. Non-classified and corrections employees received raises last session, so this helps bring everyone up. However, it is not entirely clear whether certain judicial staff would see these enhancements because they may not be part of the classified state employee workforce.
Yesterday, Rep. Bill Sutton made a motion in House appropriations that would add $6 million for nonjudicial salary increases and $840 K to help fund personnel to implement the juvenile justice act. This is a reduction from the $22 million the General Government Budget sub-committee recommended. Interestingly, Rep. Sutton is chair of the General Government Budget, and by this motion, overruled his own committee. It is important to at least get some form of employee raises into the mega-budget to avoid serious pay-go issues on the House side.
Rep. Sutton did agree to discuss further enhancements during Omnibus, but absent any new revenue, this would be unlikely. If the money isn’t added in committee then a floor amendment would be needed to add the funding. However, pay-go rules dictate that any funding added on the floor must be accompanied by an equal or greater cut. Thus, it is harder to add money on the floor than in committee.
Both chambers will be on the floor next week working bills leading up to the second house deadline, Thursday, March 30th (the deadline for consideration of a bill by the second chamber—the opposite chamber from the one in which it originated). Drop Dead Day or First Adjournment is Friday, April 7th.