Week 2 of the Kansas Legislature saw significant movement on the constitutional amendment on abortion and the judicial funding lawsuit. The abortion amendment took two days to move out of committee. The House Fed/State Committee and the Senate Judiciary held joint sessions to hear identical proposals. The consolidation was to save time and speed up the process. Over 180 pieces of testimony were submitted to the committee, and a few dozen individuals and organizations testified on the amendment. The Senate and House Committees approved the amendments as introduced after they repelled several amendments from Democrats. The amendment moves to the floor of both chambers for a vote. To pass it will need 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate. Rumor has it that the House will take up the issue by the middle of next week. If passed, the amendment will be placed on the primary ballot in August. See; http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2019_20/measures/scr1613/ and; http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2019_20/measures/hcr5019/
Chief Justice Marla Luckert made several new friends in the capitol when she dismissed the judicial funding lawsuit. The dismissal will allow the court and legislature to begin talking about the budget. There was significant tension brought on by the lawsuit, but legislators feel that this is new day and a change from previous administration. No concrete proposals for judicial pay increases have been pushed forward by legislators, but the dismissal has been seen as progress. See; http://kscourts.org/Kansas-Courts/General-Information/2020-News-Releases/012220c.pdf
The KBA was active on two bills this last week. The first bill was HB 2447 expanding audio-visual technology in courtrooms. The KBA has supported these judicial efficiencies, and our support was well received. However, the Judiciary Committee had questions regarding witness testimony via teleconference. These concerns do not appear to be a fatal flaw in the bill, and a compromised should be reached.
The second bill is HB 2401, dealing with the quorum requirement for shareholder’s meetings for certain corporations. This is a bill proposed by Rep. Boog Highberger (D-Lawrence). The KBA will monitor this bill closely and may propose amendments when appropriate. The bill will be worked next Wednesday in House Fed/State Committee.
This week there are two bills that require attention.
The first is HB 2461 which restricts public entities from contracting for contingent fee legal services. The bill is sponsored by Kansas Attorney General’s office and would require public entities to receive permission from the KSAG prior to entering a contingent fee contract. We have seen several municipalities sue large corporations over the opioid epidemic and over underage vaping. Local units of government would need to apply to the KSAG for permission to enter these contracts. The KSAG will have sole discretion in approving the applications. Applications would be approved if the contract serves the public interest and does not impede the legal interest of the state.
The KBA will provide testimony on the right to sue and right to contract issues.
The KBA will also submit written testimony on SB 269, increasing to 80 years of age the mandatory retirement age for judges. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Vic Miller (D-Topeka).