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The KBA Advocate is the weekly KBA legislative newsletter that contains up-to-date information on legislation that impacts your practice. It is only published when the legislature is in session and is sent to all KBA members electronically via the KBA Weekly.

 

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Supreme court applicant interviews

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission will be interviewing all 14 applicants to the vacant position on August 4-5 in the Fatzer Courtroom at the Kansas Judicial Center. The KBA strongly encourages its members to attend these interviews.

 

The interviews will last between 20-30 minutes. The nine-person commission will begin their deliberation at noon on August 5. These interviews are open to the public but the interview guidelines should be followed. (See http://www.kscourts.org/pdf/InterviewGuidelines.pdf.)

 

You can familiarize yourself with each applicant by reviewing his or her biography online at http://www.kscourts.org/pdf/ApplicantBiographies.pdf.

 

The schedule of applicant interviews is as follows:

 

Monday – August 4, 2014

8:15 a.m. Commission convenes

9:00 a.m. Thomas Malone

9:30 a.m. David Klaassen

10:00 a.m. Break

10:30 a.m. Curtis Roggow

11:00 a.m. Anthony Mattivi

11:30 a.m. Anthony Powell

12:00 p.m. Lunch Break for Commission - Discussion

1:00 p.m. Steven Montgomery

1:30 p.m. Merlin Wheeler

2:00 p.m. Karen Arnold-Burger

2:30 p.m. Break

3:00 p.m. Victor Braden

 

Tuesday – August 5, 2014

8:30 a.m. Commission Discussion

9:00 a.m. Daniel Creitz

9:30 a.m. Dennis Depew

10:00 a.m. Break

10:30 a.m. Caleb Stegall

11:00 a.m. Steven Obermeier

11:30 a.m. Linda Kirby

12:00 p.m. Discussion and Deliberation

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Supreme Court Vacancy Position

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission will be begin interviewing for Supreme Court justice position No. 7 (Moritz) on August 4-5. There are 14 applicants for this opening, with four Kansas Court of Appeal judges, three district court judges, and seven lawyers. For a full listing of applicants, please visit http://www.kscourts.org/pdf/listofapplicants.pdf.

 

These applicants will be interviewed by the nine-member Nominating Commission. Attorneys in each of the state’s four congressional districts elects four Commission members, the governor appoints four non-attorneys, and the chair is elected by attorneys in a statewide vote. The Commission is an independent body created by the Kansas Constitution whose members are: Anne E. Burke, chair, Overland Park; David J. Rebein, Dodge City; Linda B. Weis, Manhattan; Natalie G. Haag, Topeka; Felita R. Kahrs, Topeka; Matthew D. Keenan, Leawood; Robert Hayworth, Shawnee Mission; Jay F. Fowler, Wichita; and Gary T. Mason, Maize.

 

After interviewing applicants, the Commission will submit names of three qualified individuals to the governor. The governor will then choose from that list who will fill position No. 7 on the Supreme Court.

 

These interviews are open to the public and the Court encourages any interested party to attend. Each interview will take approximately 30 minutes; the interviews will NOT be streamed live. Again, the interviews will take place on August 4-5 in Fatzer Courtroom.

 

This process is significantly different than the process used for the last Kansas Court of Appeal position. Under the Court of Appeal process, the governor nominates a candidate who is confirmed by the Kansas Senate. The list of applicants was not released and any prior interview conducted by the governor’s office was not made public. Prior to Senate confirmation, the candidate’s full application was reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. This process did cause a bit of controversy as certain aspects of it were not made public. Here are a few old news articles on that topic.

Needless to say all eyes will be on the process to select a new Kansas Supreme Court justice.

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Kansas Supreme Court Opening

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Last week, the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission officially began taking applications for an opening on the Kansas Supreme Court. The opening was created when Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz retired in order to ascend to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

 

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission is a nine-member board responsible for recommending qualified individuals for appointment to the Supreme Court. Four of the members are non-attorneys appointed by the governor and four are attorneys selected by attorneys in each of the state's four congressional districts. The Chair of the Commission is an attorney elected by attorneys in a statewide vote. To clarify, attorneys elected the attorney members and the chair. The Kansas Bar Association does not play a role in this process.

 

The Commission sends the names of three qualified individuals to the governor for each vacancy. The governor then interviews the candidates and makes the appointment.

 

This method of filling judicial vacancies has been under attack in Kansas for nearly a decade. Last year the Kansas Legislature altered this process for the Court of Appeals. The legislature opted for a governor appoints/Senate confirm model. Below is a list of proposals introduced during 2013 that would have amended the Kansas Constitution by altering or eliminating the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission. None of these proposals were able to garner the two-thirds majority needed in the Kansas House.

This Supreme Court opening will be an opportune time to discuss the many differences between the process now used for the Court of Appeals and the merit selection process still employed for the Supreme Court. The KBA supports the work done by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission and the process used to find the most-qualified candidate. As this process moves along, the KBA will update its website with candidate information and other related documents.

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Sine Die

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Updated: Monday, June 2, 2014

The Kansas Legislature adjourned for the year on Friday, May 30 as they embraced Sine Die. This officially kicked off the 2014 election season as candidates are now allowed to receive campaign contributions. There are a number of interesting races this season, including the race for Kansas governor (Brownback vs. Davis), secretary of state (Kobach vs. Schodorf vs. Morgan), 1st District House (Huelskamp vs. Sherow), and 2nd District House (Jenkins vs. Wakefield).

 

But those are just the headliners. Imbedded in the August primaries are several races that will challenge conservative incumbents. For instance, Rep. Craig McPherson (R-Olathe) is being challenged by Overland Park attorney Stacey Schlimmer for District 8, Rep. Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa) is up against Overland Park lawyer Jameia Haines in District 16, and Fred Patton, a Topeka attorney, is challenging Rep. Josh Powell (R-Topeka) for District 50.

 

Bigger news on the House side is Rep. Kinzer’s decision to retire. This will make for some interesting internal republican politics as representatives maneuver themselves into position for the open chairmanship. The current vice chair is Rep. Rob Bruchman (R-Overland Park). His most likely competition is Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee). The dark horse in the race would have to be Rep. Jan Pauls (R-Hutchinson), who switched parties last week. Pauls is currently the longest serving representative in the House and now former minority chair of the Judiciary Committee. This only becomes an issue if Rubin and Pauls win their elections.

 

The interim season will also see the appointment of a new Kansas Supreme Court Justice. Justice Nancy Moritz will ascend to the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal this summer, which will open up a position on the Supreme Court. The nine-person Supreme Court Nominating Commission will recommend three qualified candidates to the governor, who will then appoint an attorney to fill the vacancy. The commission has five lawyers (Anne Burke, chair; Dave Rebein; Natalie Haag; Matthew Keenan; and Jay Fowler. The four non-lawyers include Felita Kahrs, Robert Hayworth, and Gary Mason, as well as a person from Manhattan.)

 

This process will differ greatly from the process used to appoint Judge Caleb Stegall to the Kansas Court of Appeals last summer. Interested parties should pay attention for another push to change the Supreme Court process to mirror the Court of Appeals process. How far this actually gets will depend on conservative gains in the House this November.

 

Finally, the Kansas Legislative Research Department compiled all bills that were passed into law this session into handy summary documents. These summaries are broken into three separate PDF documents. These are very handy reference items that can be found here:

If you would like to view the bills tracked by the KBA in 2014 you can view our Bill Tracking Page at www.ksbar.org.

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Session Adjourns

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” – Mark Twain

 

With Mr. Twain’s words in mind I am happy to report that on Saturday, May 3 at approximately 2 a.m. the Kansas legislature completed its work and adjourned for the year. This was the shortest Veto Session in quite some time. It lasted only 68 hours and the entire session wrapped up in 79 days.

 

The main issue before the legislature during Veto Session was the state budget. A budget was agreed upon in conference committee and the Kansas House skipped debate on the floor prior to conferencing. This gave some legislators a little heartburn but the push was on to end the session quickly.

 

The Budget Conference Committee crafted a bill that contained the following:

 

CCR S. Sub. HB 2231 updates the two-year budget adopted last year. The FY 2015 budget is $14.6 billion. Some of the highlights include:

  • Payments for claims against the state;
  • One-time $250 bonus for all state employees, but not a pay raise;
  • The governor’s proposal to reduce the waiting lists for disability services;
  • $360 million for the Department of Corrections;
  • Taking $5 million from the KEYS fund and transferring it to the Kansas Bioscience Authority to $32 million and;
  • Funding for public broadcasting.

Quick Take HB 2398 Bill Signing

The KBA and the LLC Subcommittee were present during the signing of HB 2398, which deals with the Kansas LLC Act. This was a two-year process and the KBA would like to congratulate them on a job well done.

 

(l-r) Joe Jarvis, Bill Matthews, Gov. Sam Brownback, Rep. Rob Bruchman, and Bill Quick. (not pictured) Prof. Webb Hecker.

While most were happy to get a budget done (Senate passed 22-18/ House passed 70-54), the April revenue numbers caused quite a stir and maybe even a little panic. For April alone, revenues were off by $92 million. There was immediate push back from the administration blaming the federal government for the shortfall. Democrats were quick to pounce on the poor numbers and argue the governor’s tax policies were the main cause for the drop.

The state has adequate reserves (for now) to deal with the $92 million loss but what caught some off guard was the downgrading of the state’s credit rating by Moody’s Investor Service. Moody stated that poor economic growth as compared to neighboring states, use of one-time revenue enhancers and the tax cuts were the reason for the downgrade.

The legislature also took up the Court of Tax Appeals issue during Veto Session. The Conference Committee Report for Sub. HB 231 made the following changes:

  • Changes the name from Court of Tax Appeals back to the Board of Tax Appeals
  • Clarifies that appeals can go to the Kansas Court of Appeals or to a district court.
  • Requires a summary opinion 14 days after a hearing, full opinion within 90 days
  • Requires one board member to be a licensed certified general real estate appraiser
  • Increases the maximum amount handled by the small claims division to $3 million
  • Prevents a change in the property valuation in the two years following determination and defines what "substantial and compelling reasons” could cause the valuation to change.
  • New members of the board would make a lesser amount until they completed the education requirements, then they would get paid as outlined in current law
  • Deletes language concerning unsigned or incorrectly signed notice of appeals forms
  • Income and expense statements shall be in a form that is regularly maintained by the business.

With the close of any legislative session you have a number of retirements. This being an election year the number is even more important. The list so far includes:

  • Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys
  • Rep. Ward Cassidy, R- St. Francis
  • Rep. Marshal Christmann, R- Lyons
  • Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence (candidate for governor)
  • Rep. Shanti Gandhi, R- Topeka
  • Rep. Jim Howell, R- Derby (candidate for Sedgwick County commissioner)
  • Rep. Reid Petty, R-Liberal
  • Rep. Vern Swanson, R-Clay Center

The official close of the session, also called Sine Die, is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, May 30. This is purely ceremonial and no business is on the agenda. In the meantime, please take a look at the Kansas legislative website for summary of bills that have passed and been signed into law. Below are links to these summaries.

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Law Day at the Capitol

Posted By Anne Woods, Tuesday, April 29, 2014
We have celebrated our country’s dedication to the principles of government under law since 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 1 of each year as the official Law Day. The intention was to appropriate observance of that day for Americans to rededicate themselves to the ideals of equality and justice under the law.

 

This year, Kansas has much to celebrate as Law Day falls near the anniversaries of two major pieces of legislation. On May 17, our country will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Many view the Brown decision by the U.S. Supreme Court as the most important legal decision of the 20th century. The key ruling of the court was that racial segregation of public schools was wrong. Following this decision, many civil rights cases were launched and led to a majority of the anti-discrimination laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodations on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 

Another piece of landmark legislation is the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement. It is designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The American Bar Association chose "American Democracy and the Rule of law: Why Every Vote Matters” as the theme for Law Day 2014. It is with this in mind that the Kansas Bar Association is sponsoring a special continuing legal education session this week specifically for lawyer-legislators.

 

In an effort to help provide information about important cases and why we celebrate Law Day, the KBA has also dedicated the March and April issues of Law Wise to these topics. Law Wise is a free publication for Kansas Educators that is published six times a year from funding provided by the Kansas Bar Foundation and the KBA Law-Related Education Committee. Anyone can sign up to receive this electronic publication by visiting http://www.ksbar.org/lawwise. The March issue provides information about the Brown case, and includes a timeline and a lesson plan on learning to respect each other. The April issue features information following the ABA Law Day theme and includes Kansas voting topics and a lesson plan on the different strategies used in political campaign ads.

 

 

Tags:  Brown v. Board of Education  civil rights  Law Day  Law Wise  US Supreme Court  voting rights 

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Veto Session

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Kansas Legislature returns next week after a three-week hiatus to begin wrapping up the 2014 legislative session. Veto Session officially starts the afternoon of April 30.

 

Legislators will return from an acrimonious spring break where they faced off with some unhappy constituents. The unease is spin off from the school finance vote, which included a policy piece stripping tenure from K-12 teachers. See http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2014/apr/20/area-legislators-getting-earful-school-finance/.

 

Gov. Brownback signed the school finance bill, Senate Sub. for HB 2506, this past Monday. How much this will affect elections in the fall will be the big question.

 

The governor has already signed into law Senate Sub. for HB 2338 (Judicial Budget bill). The KBA, Kansas Association of Justice, Kansas Defense Council Association and Kansans for Fair Courts (KFFC) all requested the governor veto this bill. KFFC even started a petition that can be found at http://changekansas.org/action/petition/stop-holding-the-kansas-courts-hostage.

 

The main issue is the combination of fiscal and policy pieces that de-unify the judicial branch. Here is a bullet point of the provisions within the bill:

  • Appropriates $2 million additional from the state general fund (SGF) for FY 2015
  • Increase existing docket fees and create statutory filing fees for appeals to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court
  • Allows chief judge in a judicial district to elect to be responsible for submitting a budget for the judicial district to the chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court
  • District court judges in each judicial district would elect a district judge to serve as chief judge
  • Requires the chief justice to provide notification of a vacancy in the office of district court judge or district magistrate court judge to the chairperson of the district judicial nominating commission not later than 120 days following the date of the vacancy.
  • Delete requirement for the payment of longevity to Judicial Branch non-judicial staff

For more insight into this issue, please see http://www.kansas.com/2014/04/11/3397424/eagle-editorial-funding-bill-erodes.html.

 

The Kansas Bar Association statement can be found online at http://www.ksbar.org/?calltoaction.

 

With the major issue off the table, Veto Session should have few dramatics. Look for conference committees to finalize the Court of Tax Appeals bill, PEAK and property evaluation of machinery and equipment.

 

The Kansas legislative website has a wonderful summary of bills that have passed and been signed into law. Here are links to these summaries:

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First Adjournment

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The 2014 legislative session reached First Adjournment on Friday, April 4 and continued working until Sunday, April 6 when a school finance plan was approved by the Kansas House. First Adjournment is the last official day of the regular session but legislators wanting to finalize the school finance issues it dragged on for the entire weekend. The importance of this date cannot be understated because bills not passed by both houses (exempt committees have some leeway) are dead for the session. This being an even numbered year also means they do not carry over and must be reintroduced as a new bill with a new bill number next year.

 

Legislators went deep into the night on Friday, April 4, Saturday, April 5, and Sunday, April 6 before finally managing to pass a plan with the minimum number of yes votes (63-57). Initially, both chambers introduced bills hoping to bring an end to the issue early on but charter school and private tuition proposals became a huge sticking point. The fallout from the botched bill extended to Rep. Marc Rhoades who decided to resign as chair of House Appropriations instead of support the new bill. Seehttp://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/31/4927226/kansas-house-panels-leader-quits.html; see alsohttp://watchdog.org/136217/marc-rhoades-resignation/; and http://www.kansas.com/2014/03/20/3358134/gop-plan-would-hike-aid-to-poor.html.

 

Once the dust settled, the Senate had the upper hand and passed their bill first. The House concurred to the Senate position that eliminated tenure for K-12 teachers. This is seen as a union busting measure and praised by a number of conservatives who championed teacher reform measures.

 

The big pieces of the school finance bill (Senate Sub. for HB 2506) are as follows:

  • Provides an additional $109,265,000 for Supplemental General State Aid (Local Option Budget Equalization).
  • Transfer $25,200,786 to the Capital Outlay Fund from the state general fund.
  • Changes the definition of At-Risk Pupil to exclude those students in grades 1-12 who are not full time and those over 19 years of age. Provisions wouldn’t apply if a student had an individualized education program (IEP).
  • Establish the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission.
  • Alternative Teacher Licensure provisions.
  • Increase to 20 percent the number of Kansas schools that can participate as an Innovative School Districts.
  • Changes statutory Base State Aid Per Pupil to $3,838.
  • Eliminates due process rights for tenured public school teachers.
  • Corporate Education Tax Credit Scholarship Program, allowing companies to give $10,000 for scholarships for kids who come from families who make less than $43,000 a year or have a IEP.

For more coverage of the issue see the following:

In addition, both the House and Senate voted to approve the Conference Committee Report on HB 2338, which contains the judicial budget. The KBA was unsuccessful in removing the policy provisions that de-unified the court system.

 

Senate Sub. for HB 2338, Judicial Budget (Passed Senate 26-11; House 66-57)

  • Appropriates $2 million additional from the state general fund for FY 2015.
  • Increases existing docket fees and create statutory filing fees for appeals to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
  • Allows chief judge in a judicial district to elect to be responsible for submitting a budget for the judicial district to the chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.
  • District court judges in each judicial district would elect a district judge to serve as chief judge.
  • Requires the chief justice to provide notification of a vacancy in the office of district court judge or district magistrate court judge to the chairperson of the district judicial nominating commission not later than 120 days following the date of the vacancy.
  • Deletes requirement for the payment of longevity to Judicial Branch non-judicial staff.

The KBA was able to thwart an attempt by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to alter the collateral source rule in Kansas. The bill, SB 311, increased the cap on non-economic damages to $350,000. The bill included two policy provisions; one adopted the Daubertexpert witness standard. The other allowed evidence of collateral source payments to be introduced to a jury. The KBA worked diligently with Kansas Association for Justice to remove the provision. The final agreed upon bill passed both chambers without collateral source.

 

The KBA received good news when both of its bills (HB 2398, dealing with LLCs, and HB 2444, dealing with spend thrift trusts) passed prior to First Adjournment and are now on their way to the governor for his signature. The KBA has requested a bill signing ceremony with the governor for HB 2398. This will be an excellent way to recognize the hard work of the LLC subcommittee (Bill Quick, Bill Matthew, Webb Hecker, and Joe Jarvis). I hope to have photos taken for the KBA Journal.

Tags:  budget  First Adjournment  judicial branch  LLCs  school finance  state general fund 

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Session Winding Down

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Week 10 was a rush as committees began wrapping up hearings for the year in anticipation of Second House Consideration deadline. This deadline is set for March 26th and any bills not passed out will be dead for the session. In addition, First Adjournment is literally right around the corner (April 4th) and both chambers will be busy on the floor passing bills approved by committees. With that in mind the Kansas Senate had a near record number of bills up for debate this week. More than 40 bills were heard, discussed and passed over the last ten working days. The big one was the phase of the mortgage registration fee. This fee, tacked on to people taking out mortgages to buy property, will cost local government tens of millions of dollars. The bill does allow for a small offset in higher recording fees but nothing that can really cover the lost.

Another big item was the first school finance bill which added $129 million of state general funds to equalize school funding. The kicker in this first attempt was the number of “strings” attached to the money, including enhanced charter school language and scholarships for private schools. The bill is an “all or nothing” approach by the House that is eerily similar to the bundled Judicial Branch Budget bill Senate Sub for HB 2338. This is not an entirely new concept (Fed link transportation funding to seat belts and drinking age) but this process is becoming ever more popular in Kansas.

 

However, this first attempt was met with serious push back. It became clear that the drafters of HB 2773 did not discuss the provisions in the bill with leadership. Speaker Merrick was unaware of the charter school language and ordered a new bill be drafted. The new, workable bill, is HB 2774.

On the KBA front, SB 311 was debated last week. SB 311 increases the noneconomic cap to $350,000 but allows collateral source evidence and federalizes expert witness rules. The KBA worked with like-minded partners to remove the two offending provisions. Our efforts were rewarded when the Kansas House voted 82-33 to remove the collateral source provision. The amendment to cut out the expert witness change was not approved. SB 311 passed on Monday 119-2. If the Senate fails to concur with the amended bill it will head to conference committee where supporters of the collateral source provision will try to insert it back into the bill. Rep. Kinzer carried the collateral source amendment with significant support from Rep. Kahrs. See; http://www.therepublic.com/w/KS--Lawsuits-Damage-Limits

See also http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/21/4906127/kansas-house-rejects-key-change.html

Quick Take:

Last week the Kansas Legislature added “handshaking” as a required course in high school to a curriculum bill.  The handshaking amendment was made as a joke to highlight the micromanaging of local school curriculum decisions.  Things got serious when the committee decided that some form of etiquette training was important and the amendment passed.


Also Rep. Virgil Peck (R-Tyro, KS) introduced a bill to increase legislator’s pay from $88 to $204. This new number is 80% of a teacher’s salary. The bill, minus daily per diem of $123, would work out to around $25,000.

The KBA got good news when both of its bills (HB 2398 dealing with LLC’s and HB 2444 dealing with spendthrift trusts) were passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. HB 2398 was even placed on the Senate Consent Calendar which means that after three days it will move automatically to Final Action.

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Judicial Budget Recommendations

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kansas Senate Proposal

The Kansas Judicial Branch Budget was front and center this week. Senate Sub. for HB 2338 was read into the Kansas House on Monday. This substitute bill was put together by Sens. King and Masterson in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Senate Sub. for HB 2338 contained the judicial branch budget bill proposed by Sen. King (see SB 313). However, it also contained two non-budgetary items that the KBA and the KDJA strongly opposed (see SB 364 and SB 365). The Kansas House received this substitute bill and promptly voted to nonconcur. This means that the substitute bill will go to a conference committee to be reviewed. The House appointed Reps. Rhoades, Kinzer, and Henry (D). The Senate appointed Sen. Masterson, Sen. King and Sen. Petty (D).

 

Senate Sub. for HB 2338 contained the following budget recommendations:

  1. Appropriate $2 million from the State General Fund (SGF) to offset the docket fee/surcharge fee shortfall;
  2. Require a $195 filing fee for summary judgment;
  3. Allow a $12.50 for garnishment requests;
  4. Increase petitions for expungements by $76;
  5. Increase KSA Chapter 60 cases by $19;
  6. Reduce small claims actions by $2; and;
  7. Create an electronic filing and centralized case management fund (E-COURTS).

It is anticipated the judicial branch will increase its revenue by nearly $10 million. The majority of revenue will come from the summary judgment fee. Sen. King estimates that the judicial branch will receive $6.2 million. The first $3.1 million would go to the e-courts fund with the remainder being used for court operations. An additional $2 million comes straight from SGF to fill the surcharge gap. The balance comes from the HB 2303, which is to be used to fund nonjudicial personnel market level raises.

 

The biggest concern with the substitute bill is the projected revenue from summary judgment fees is not reliable. The Office of Judicial Administration initially estimated the increase in revenue at $4 million. As stated above, Sen. King thinks it is closer to $6.2 million. This does not take into account the possibility that fewer summary judgments are filed and the potential cost of more trials.

 

Kansas House Proposal

The House General Government Budget and House Appropriations reviewed the judicial branch budget as well. Their proposals were very different than the Senate version. First, they did not agree to any of the proposals outlined in Senate Sub. for HB 2338. The consensus was the bundled bill was unacceptable because it avoided the bicameral legislative process. Both house budget committees stated that they would be interested in taking up Sen. King’s proposals individuals. House Appropriations scheduled an information hearing for on Monday, March 17 to go over the bills in Senate Sub. for HB 2338.

 

Rep. DeGraaf chairs the General Government Budget Committee and his committee made the following recommendations:

 

FY15

SGF

Begin with Governor's Rec.

104,033,734

Delete funding for longevity

-593,305

Delete salary cap offset

-809,342

Delete surcharge and docket fee shortfall

-1,000,000

Delete funding for 80 positions

-2,500,000

FY14 to FY15 savings

-114,272

Add Judicial Center Remodel

373,725

Recommended FY15 Appropriation

99,390,540

Difference

-4,643,194



The recommendation also indicated that research needs to be done to decrease duplication of library materials and resources between the Judicial Center, the State Library, Washburn Law Library, and Legislative Research.

 

The recommendation also requested the Appropriations Committee examine the provisions of HB 2338 (the Senate judicial omnibus bill) when the judicial budget recommendations are considered.

 

Finally, the recommendation deletes 13 vacant court reporter positions at the end of FY14. The judicial branch is instructed to abolish 18 full-time employee court reporters during FY15; and $180,000 ($10,000 per position) will be transferred to the technology fund to be used for grants to the district courts for the implementation of electronic recording. Rep. DeGraaf stated that the cost of an electronic recording system runs between $7,000 and $12,000. The remaining savings from the 18 positions will remain in the judicial branch budget.

 

Also interesting is statements made by Rep. Peck who agreed to an appropriation to renovate the Supreme Court. Rep. Peck implied that the judicial center remodel funds could be used as extra funds to avoid violating pay-go. Look for these funds to be redirected when the budget is worked on the House floor.

 

The Kansas Supreme Court has taken notice of the proposed changes and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss wrote a very pointed opinion letter. Chief Justice Nuss claims that there is a link between budget increases and court issues that diffuses the unified court system. See http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/17/4896714/lawton-r-nuss-kansas-legislature.html. The Kansas City Star wrote an article outlining the tension between the Court and Legislature. See http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/17/4897300/top-kansas-judge-criticizes-bill.html.

 

The KBA had a hearing on SB 311 in House Commerce and Economic Development on Monday, March 17. The KBA has submitted testimony opposing the collateral source and Daubertprovisions.

 

The KBA also has hearings on HB 2444, dealing with spendthrift trusts, on Tuesday, March 18 and HB 2568, dealing with the domestic code recodification, on Wednesday, March 19. Both are set to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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