The Kansas Legislature is in full swing now. The Senate is working tax bills, the House is looking at school finance appropriations and the Judiciary Committees of both chambers are pushing bills out to the floor.
The most significant items this week were the passage of SB 9 and SB 22 by the Senate. SB 9 repays $115 million to KPERS, SB 22 is the windfall tax cut that is estimated to cost $191 million. These two pieces of legislation put a very large dent in the revenue surplus. See; https://www.pionline.com/article/20190207/ONLINE/190209857/kansas-senate-passes-bill-issuing-115-million-to-kpers;, See also; https://www.cjonline.com/news/20190207/kansas-senate-adopts-190-million-windfall-income-tax-reduction-bill.
The House has already introduced its plan to deal with KPERs in HB 2197. That bill would amortize KPERs for 30 years, and save the state some money in the short term; long term numbers would run into the billions.
Gov. Kelly has stated publicly that this would be a return to a Brownback style tax policy. See; https://www.leavenworthtimes.com/opinion/20190207/true-blue-bill-would-destabilize-our-recovering-economy. The question now turns to the House and whether there is an appetite to pass the Senate work product, pass its own tax policy bill or just let it hang there for a bit. Will be interesting to see.
The Kansas Judicial Branch had a busy week as well. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss gave his 8th State of the Judiciary Speech. He focused on pay increases for judges and staff. Kansas ranks 51st in the nation for district court judge salaries. The state doesn’t rank much better for other judges and staff either. See; http://kscourts.org/Court-Administration/Compensation_Study/index.html
Chief Justice Nuss also pointed out some good things happening in Kansas courts, specifically some specialty courts. It was a well-attended speech with the Governor/ Lt. Gov, KSAG and several legislators in attendance. The entire speech can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Grk1-a-ju58?autoplay=1&rel=0
The Judicial Branch also got its surcharge extension bill out of Senate Judiciary. This bill is worth $9 million to the judiciary budget. It has been approved six times now. Sen. Vic Miller (D-Topeka) did amend the bill to remove the sunset so the courts do not have to ask for extensions every two years. SB 20 heads to the Senate floor as amended.
Rep. Russ Jennings (R-Lakin) has introduced a bill to return the selection of Kansas Court of Appeal judges to the Supreme Court nominating commission. HB 2192 would repeal the current governor appoint/senate confirm model. The KBA has a long-standing policy of supporting the merit selection process, even for the Kansas Court of Appeals. The KBA opposed the governor appoint/senate confirm model when it was introduced.
The KBA had an eventful week under the dome. First, the Kansas House passed out HB 2039, concerning recognition of tribal court judgment, without incident. The bill moves to the Senate for hearings. The KBA continues to support the measure. The House also approved HB 2038, automatic revocation of inheritance rights upon divorce. The KBA is closely tracking this bill’s progress.
Two KBA bills were given hearings this past week: HB 2072 dealing with arbitration in insurance contracts and HB 2105 updating the LLC Act. American Casualty and Property Insurance opposed HB 2072 because it would like to make arbitration mandatory in its insurance contracts
I am working with Chairman Patton to get both of these bills passed out of committee.
The KBA also attended a meeting via conference call on HB 2115/SB 56 concerning verification of billable hours by state contractors. These identical bills would require any company with a state contract over $100K to install software that would track their computer activity when working on the state contract. The conference call was attended by over a dozen organizations/associations who oppose these bills.
Finally, there are two family law bills that impact the KBA. The first is HB 2196 creating a presumption of shared parenting time in temporary orders. The KBA Family Law section opposed a similar bill in 2018 and is reviewing this bill now. The sponsors of the bill include: Rep. Jeff Pittman (D-Leavenworth); Rep. Francis Awerkamp (R-St. Marys); Rep. Emil Bergquist (R-Park City); Rep. Ronald Ellis (R-Meriden); Rep. John Eplee (R-Atchison); Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego); Rep. Don Hineman (R-Dighton); and Rep. John Resman (R-Olathe).
The second is the HB 2164, repeal of the Adoption Protection Act. The Adoption Protection Act was amended into a bill the KBA supported last session and passed via conference committee.