The Kansas Legislature has been working feverishly in order to get out of town by this week. Rumor has it that the legislature will break a bit early to avoid a forced shutdown due to the COVID-19 spread. But this is just a rumor, and while many events and public spaces are closing or being postponed, the Capitol is open for business.
Gov. Laura Kelly has issued an Emergency Declaration. See; https://governor.kansas.gov/governor-issues-emergency-declaration-for-covid-19/. Chief Justice Marla Luckert has also issued an order outlining the judicial branch’s response to COVID-19. To read the order: https://www.kscourts.org/KSCourts/media/KsCourts/Orders/2020-PR-013.pdf?ext=.pdf
The Chief Justice and the legislature are currently working on language that would allow the courts to close. This is a direct response to the COVID-19 issue. A bill is being drafted as we speak, but the contents are vague at this time. There were talks of speedy trial issues and jury cases being postponed but no reviewable language at present. When that language is available, I will email this group.
Other than COVID-19, the big news last week was the appointment of K.J. Wall to the Kansas Supreme Court. Wall is a KU Law grad, a K-State alum and a former Deputy General Counsel for the Kansas Supreme Court. Wall worked in Colorado and Minnesota before rerunning to Kansas. The Kansas Supreme Court is now fully staffed with seven justices. See; https://www.wibw.com/content/news/Governor-appoints-Kenyen-J-KJ-Wall-to-fill-vacancy-on-the-Kansas-Supreme-Court-568704611.html
The big legislative item for the KBA was SB 157, presumptive shared parenting. The KBA coordinated opposition testimony from seven speakers and more than a dozen lawyers. The KBA was represented by Ron Nelson, a family law expert from Johnson County. Judge Keven O’Grady, Charles Harris, Prof. Linda Elrod, Sara Rust-Martin, and Dr. Bud Dale also spoke in opposition to SB 157. The bill has not been “worked” just yet, and its passage is in doubt. See; https://www.sekvoice.com/news/20200309/house-weighs-adopting-presumption-of-equal-time-in-child-custody/1
The KBA also testified on HB 2713, uniform notarial act. This bill will update the Kansas Notarial Act first passed in 1984.
The House Judiciary passed out HB 2401 as amended. HB 2401 deals with quorum requirements for co-ops. The KBA provided neutral testimony on the issue and requested a sunset on the bill. The committee agreed and amended the bill to include a 3-year sunset. The sunset will allow all interested parties to work on a more robust Co-Op Corporate Act. The bill heads to the floor.
Finally, the KBA provided supportive testimony for the Kansas Judicial Budget to the Senate Ways & Means Committee. This support was also leveraged through a joint letter sent to committee members on Monday. At present the House has placed the full request of $18.3 million into its budget, but Senate Ways & Means Committee has only recommended a 2.5 percent pay raise. How this shakes out may wait until veto session.
The Kansas Legislature continues to make progress on several fronts this session, but the spread of COVID-19 is at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts. Hand washing and use of hand sanitizers are now the norm, but social distancing is difficult in this setting. The issue is now being monitored on a day-to-day basis, with KDHE providing multiple updates per day.
The goal appears to be to have each chamber finalize respective versions of the budget, draft an acceptable transportation plan, then break. The original schedule called for a short break between March 25th and March 30th with First Adjournment coming on Friday April 3rd. It is difficult to determine if we will stick to the schedule given the current health issues at play. We are in a unique situation dealing with rapidly changing circumstances. Patience will be required.