With the legislative session nearly a month past, it is a good time to discuss legislation that made changes to the Kansas Judicial Branch. This week’s Advocate focuses on judicial budget issues and provides a summary for House Sub for SB 261.
Coming into the year, the Judicial Branch budget was relatively stable. The court system had enough funds to operate without the fear of furloughs or other budget-cutting issues. What currently plagues the court system is the loss of employees and difficulty filling open positions. The court found that these issues are attributable to low starting salaries and lack of pay increases. In 2017, most state employees received a 2.5% raise, but that increase merely offset the increase in healthcare premiums. This year, the court was asking for a larger increase for judges and nonjudicial staff. The court sought $19.7 million in its supplemental budget request.
The supplemental request included nearly $18 million in pay increases for judges and nonjudicial staff, just under one million dollars for 20 new FTE employees (clerks); $775K for seven new judges and accompanying staff, and $200K for office renovations.
The court previously asked for 80 new FTE but that number was lowered due to efficiencies gained through E-filing; the 7 new judges is a Blue-Ribbon Commission recommendation and the $200 K for office renovations is an attempt to locate all Court of Appeals judges on the same floor of the Judicial Center. However, the big ask was salary increases for staff.
Initially the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee only recommended the $200K for office renovations with a promise to revisit the pay increase request during the Veto Session. The House Appropriations Committee recommended around seven million dollars for raises but only a two percent raise for judges.
In the end, both chambers agreed to pay increases of five percent for nonjudicial staff and 2.5 percent for judges. This is a good first step for judicial branch employees and something positive to build upon. The KBA would like to thank all those legislators who helped with this effort. A strong judiciary is critical for our three-tiered form of government to operate effectively.
SB 261 is a bundled bill containing five separate proposals. Each of these proposals were individual bills that received a hearing in at least one chamber but for one reason or another did not get through the complete the legislative process on their own. SB 261 was designed for legislative efficiency, bundling these five related bills into one and passing them together. To better understand those issues, please review this summary from the Kansas Legislative Research Department.
State Agency Duties—Docket Fees, Marriage Licenses, Regulation of Scrap Metal, Crime Victims Compensation Board, and Appointment of an Appraiser; SB 261
SB 261 amends provisions concerning state agency duties regarding:
- docket fees
- marriage licenses
- the regulation of scrap metal
- the Crime Victims Compensation Board
- transfer of the duty to appoint an appraiser
The bill amends the statute governing disposition of docket fees to extend from June 30, 2019, until June 30, 2021, the period during which the state treasurer shall deposit and credit the first $3.1 million to the Electronic Filing and Management Fund. Beginning with the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, the bill increases from $1.0 million to $1.5 million the amount the state treasurer is directed to deposit and credit to the fund in subsequent years.
The bill replaces the requirement that the judge or clerk of a district court record the marriage on the court’s marriage record and forward the license, marriage certificate, names of the parties, and name and address of the officiant to the secretary of health and environment with a requirement that the judge or clerk submit the information from the license to the vital statistics integrated information system maintained by the secretary, or by other means as designated by the secretary and the judicial administrator. The bill removes a requirement that the judge or clerk notify the secretary if no marriage license has been issued during a month.
Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act
The bill delays or makes unenforceable certain provisions of the Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act until January 1, 2020. The following provisions are delayed by the bill:
- A requirement the attorney general establish a central database for the act and certain actions required of scrap metal dealers related to registering for the database;
- The ability for the attorney general, upon a finding that a scrap metal dealer has violated any provision of the act, to impose a civil penalty not less than $100 nor more than $5,000;
- The requirements that a scrap metal dealer obtain a copy of an identification card of a seller of scrap metal and a photograph of the item or items being sold; and
- A prohibition until January 1, 2019 on certain actions related to the purchasing and disposing of scrap metal.
The bill requires the attorney general to report to the president of the senate, speaker of the house of representatives, and standing judiciary committees on or before February 1, 2019, on the progress toward establishing the required database.
Crime Victims Compensation Board
The bill amends law governing awards from the Crime Victims Compensation Board. Specifically, the bill amends the definition of “collateral source” to specify it means the “net financial benefit” received by a victim or claimant from various sources and excludes taxes, legal fees, costs, expenses of litigation, liens, offsets, credits, or other deductions from the benefit received. The definition is also amended to include “damages awarded in a tort action” received by or readily available to the victim or claimant.
Transfer of the Duty to Appoint an Appraiser
The bill amends law requiring an appraisal prior to the state purchasing or disposing of any real property. The bill transfers the duty to appoint an appraiser with no conflict of interest from the judicial administrator to the director of property valuation, the head of the department of revenue’s division of property valuation. Similarly, if the county assessment value of the real property is more than $200,000, the bill allows the director of property valuation, rather than the judicial administrator, to appoint three appraisers who have no conflict of interest in the purchase or sale of the real property involved in the transaction.