As you are aware, the Kansas Legislature returned on Monday, January 13th for the 2020 legislative session. This year things got off to quite a start with overviews of the Hodes abortion case by the House Fed/State Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The goal was to begin the conversation on a constitutional amendment limiting the right of abortion and curtailing the power of the courts on abortion issues. Two identical constitutional amendments have been introduced, one in each chamber. These amendments, HCR 5019 and SCR 1613, will be the focal point early in the session.
This Tuesday the House Fed/State and Senate Judiciary Committees will meet in a joint session to hear both amendments. It’s symbolic to hear these amendments one day before the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision. The amendments contain some significant issues for moderate Republicans, namely the amendment is set to be on the primary ballot in August. Moderate Republicans are wary of this placement as it will drive more conservative voters to the polls which would place their position in jeopardy. With the current composition of both committees, it seems likely that the amendment will be passed favorably and sent to the floor where it will need 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate to pass.
KBA Sections have already begun reviewing 12 proposals. These proposals range from criminal law bills to business association. None of the bills being reviewed by KBA sections have been set for hearing. This allows our experts a bit of time to fully process the proposals before making a recommendation. The KBA will introduce its proposal, Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act, this coming week.
The Judicial Branch introduced two procedural bills on Wednesday in House judiciary. The first is the expansion of audio/visual technology in courtrooms. The second deals with name changes on birth certificates. The KBA has previously supported the use of audio/visual technology in courtrooms as an improvement to judicial economy. See; http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2019_20/measures/documents/hb2447_00_0000.pdf
The second bill dealing with birth certificate name changes is appreciably more controversial. The bill itself simply requests the ability to open a case and assign a case number on orders for name changes to vital statistics. The controversy will arise when others attempt to expand the bill to include changes to biological sex on birth certificates. This possibility will create some avoidance to “work” the bill, and its passage is suspect. As a side note, when introduced, there was an audible groan from committee members. The bill language is not available online yet.
Sen. Vic Miller (D-Topeka) introduced a bill that increases the retirement age from 75 to 80 for Kansas District Court judges. The KBA has previously supported increasing the retirement age of state court judges. The Miller proposal increases the age to a hard 80. Currently a district court judge shall retire at age 75 unless the term ends after the judge reaches 75. In that case the judge may serve till the end of the term. See; http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2019_20/measures/documents/sb269_00_0000.pdf
Later this week, the KBA will host the JoCo Bar and WBA for a legislative reception. The reception will be on the evening of January 23rd. I understand that several judges and Court of Appeals members plan to attend, but none of the Supreme Court justices. Their absence is a direct result of the lawsuit over salaries for the judicial branch. A number of legislators will be in attendance, so to avoid the appearance of impropriety, the Justices felt it best to skip the reception.