Week 5 saw the second State of the State Address—the first for Gov. Colyer. The address focused on three main areas: transparency, jobs and education. The Governor has already signed an executive order making the first 100 pages of a KORA request free of charge. He will also require annual sexual harassment training for state employees.
Colyer also want to focus on keeping schools open, accountability for new money used and stopping the endless lawsuits. He hinted at a constitutional amendment, but his speech did not provide any other details. Colyer also suggested a constitutional amendment dealing with pro-life laws but again no specifics were given. For more information please see; https://go.ksbar.org/2sqGaFI; See also; https://go.ksbar.org/2EXmsUy
For our purposes, Week 5 was focused on the Judicial Budget—specifically, raises for staff and judges. Last Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee debated the Judicial Branch request to add $19.6 million to the judicial budget for judicial raises ($7.5 million); nonjudicial raises ($10.3 million), seven new judges/staff ($772K); 20 unfunded positions ($875K) and judicial suite renovations ($200K).
Several members of the appropriations committee challenged the facts the court used to arrive at these numbers. The concerns were wide-ranging and included inaccurate figures to a poor wage survey to using non-neighbor states for comparison (IOWA).
Others were concerned that the total increase would be 18% above the current SGF for the Judicial Branch. The strongest opponents to the recommendations were Rep. Hoffman (R-Coldwater); Rep. Williams (R-Augusta) and Rep. Claeys (R-Salina).
Several members felt that an increase of over 21% for judges was out of line, and they would rather focus on nonjudicial staff. Rep. Claeys felt it more appropriate to fund correction officer raises due to the safety issues they are facing.
Overall, the recommendation was not well received, and it appears that the committee has very little appetite for any raise for judges.
In the end, Rep. Hoffman made a motion to strike the entire judicial budget enhancements from the recommendation. They did discuss bringing the issue up again. Chairman Waymaster would like more information from the courts concerning the amount of the raises and how they arrived at those numbers.
Next week the Senate Ways & Means Subcommittee will hear the judicial branch enhancement requests. The KBA will again be submitting testimony in support. You can view the judicial branch budget enhancement request on the KBA website.
There are two stand-alone bills dealing with judicial salaries still out there, one in each chamber:
HB 2689 Making appropriations for FY 2019 for the judicial branch; salary increases for justices, judges and nonjudicial employees.
SB 388 Making appropriations for FY 2019 for the judicial branch; salary increases for justices, judges and nonjudicial employees.
Neither are set for hearing, but they both will survive the Turnaround Deadline since they are in exempt committees.
Here are a few other bills being monitored by the KBA that could affect the judicial branch:
HB 2560 Kansas Cybersecurity Act
HB 2560 enacts the Kansas Cybersecurity Act which would impact judicial branch employees. OJA is working with the committee to exempt the Judicial Branch. I will continue to monitor its progress.
HB 2645 Changing district magistrate judge position assignments in the 4th judicial district
HB 2645 would change the residence for the primary district magistrate judge in the 4th district from Osage to Coffey county. The 4th District has two magistrates assigned with one being housed in Osage County and the other rotating between Coffey, Anderson and Franklin. No hearing date set.
SB 395 Setting a maximum final average salary amount for purposes of computing retirement benefits for certain members of KPERS, KP&F and the retirement system for judges.
SB 395 appears to cap a judge’s final average salary for KPERS purposes at $99,636.00. This is also done for magistrate judges. We continue to monitor this issue.
SB 411 Allowing certain persons with suspended driving privileges to enter into amnesty agreements with the division of vehicles.
SB 411 is an issue previously introduced by Judge Phil Journey regarding the Traffic Fee Amnesty Program. The only difference is that this bill allows the Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles to run the program instead of the courts. No hearing is scheduled at this time.
While this week’s focus was on the judicial branch’s proposal, other bills were introduced that need careful consideration; they include:
HB 2524 Allowing petitions for a protection from abuse order to include a request for transfer of rights to a wireless telephone number
HB 2529 Creating a presumption of child's equal time with parents during court determinations of legal custody, residency or parenting time
HB 2630 Adding protecting children from witnessing abuse to the list of factors the court considers when determining custody, residency or parenting time
HB 2687 Creating the Adoption Protection Act
SB 390 Creating the Extreme Risk Protective Order Act
SB 401 Creating the Adoption Protection Act
HB 2452 Limiting the duration of certain conservation easements
HB 2727 Requiring contracts for the sale of real estate to provide notice of mineral, oil and gas interests.
SB 329 Enacting the uniform partition of heirs property act
SB 266 Amending the collateral source definition for crime victim’s compensation fund
SB 277 Extending recognition to tribal court judgments pursuant to supreme court rules
SB 296 Allowing evidence of failure to use a safety belt to be admissible in any action for certain purposes
SB 409 Creating procedures for limiting contact with jurors