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.
Last week there were two huge events, both focusing on Governor Brownback. The first was the Senate’s quick and decisive action to kill Gov. Brownback’s tax plan. The bill would have raised around $200 million dollars, well short of the amount needed to end the fiscal year with a balanced budget. Both republicans and democrats agreed that the bill wasn’t enough and the governor needed to come to the table with a better plan. The vote to kill the bill was 37-1.
Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, but there is talk of reintroducing the bill the governor vetoed earlier, with minor changes such as removing the retroactive provision. Again, the issue is raising enough money to close the funding gap while garnering enough support to withstand a veto. A tricky proposition in the Kansas Senate.
A senate subcommittee also killed the governor’s proposal to consolidate certain boards in state government. These mergers have normally passed both chambers, think KDOT/Turnpike but even the simplest of consolidations are no longer guaranteed. For instance, the governor proposed merging the board of cosmetology and barbering earlier this year. This week the Senate Ways and Means subcommittee decided against that approach and kept the funding for both boards independent.
The second big event of the week was the unconfirmed report that Gov. Brownback will be appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations for food and agriculture.
The Governor has not confirmed or denied the possible job offer, but many see this as a possible way out, given his waning influence in the Capitol. Thus far, the legislature has successfully pushed back on many of the governor’s ideas, causing a significant policy shift in the Capitol. Should Gov. Brownback leave, additional options for passing a tax plan may be available.
The KBA continues to monitor legislative activity. The house judiciary committee began working on senate-introduced bills this week with some minor technical bills receiving hearings. The house judiciary agenda for next week looks very similar.
The senate judiciary committee will be churning through 17 bills next week and looking at a similar number for the week starting on March 20. KBA bills, except for HB 2186, will most likely be heard during the March 20 week. We are working to confirm that information.
Finally, the Kansas Supreme Court is accepting comments of a proposed change to Rule 122, dealing with E-filing. The deadline to submit comments is close of business this Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Comments can be submitted via email.
School finance lawsuit dominates Legislative return
Last Thursday the Kansas Supreme Court delivered its ruling on the Gannon school finance case. The Court found that the current block grant funding formula is unconstitutional and gave the legislature until June 30 to pass a suitable replacement. See; Opinion #113,267
The June 30 deadline comes from the original block grant legislation in which the law allowed a two-year “time-out” so legislators could craft a better option. As of this writing, no funding formula has been proposed.
During the Monday morning House Appropriations Committee, we heard from Dale Dennis. He informed the committee that the state would need another $372 million to get back to FY09 funding levels. Dennis also stated that support staff for teachers are down and special education teachers are also down. Dennis provided anecdotal evidence when he stated that 5th grade classes in Emporia average 28 students. Garden City is short 38 elementary teachers, Kansas City down almost 100.
This funding issue will persist throughout the remainder of the session. However, legislators must still craft a tax plan, a budget, and consider Medicaid expansion and teacher due process. Over the break, several legislators held town hall meetings or coffee meet-ups around the state. The response from constituents ran the gamut. See; Kansans urge lawmakers push amid fights over taxes schools - cjonline.com
This KBA proposal was subject to an amendment from Rep. Stogsdill (D-Prairie Village) who offered to include a provision dealing with teacher’s due process rights. The amendment was germane to the underlying bill because HB 2186 amended arbitration statutes, and teacher due process rights would be subject to these new laws. After more than two hours of debate the amended bill passed 68-57.
The KBA worked with the Kansas Land Title Association and the Kansas Attorney General’s office on SB 10. The original language of the bill contained a provision criminalizing the filing of certain liens on public officials. The KBA negotiated with KLTA and the KSAG on a compromise amendment that satisfied all parties. However, when the amendment was added to the bill, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook expanded the protection against such liens from “public officials” only, to the “public” in general. The KBA finds this significant change unacceptable. As such, the KBA Title Standard Committee opposes the bill. The KLTA and the KBA sent a letter to senators opposing the amended bill. Prior to debate, SB 10 was referred to an exempt committee and remains alive for the remainder of the 2017 session.
HB 2279 was heard in house appropriations, an exempt committee, which means this measure is unaffected by the turnaround deadline. Under current law the judicial branch receives 33% of reinstatement fees. If HB 2279 is not passed, these fees will be diverted to other groups and the judicial branch will be out around $950K. These funds are already in the FY18 & FY19 judicial budget request. If the bill does not pass, the courts face a significant budget cut.
These two bills are the judicial branch’s stand-alone budgets for the next two fiscal years. The judicial budget has already been folded into the mega-appropriations bill, but should it be stripped out, the judicial branch can fall back on these two measures.
The second half of the legislative session begins on March 6. Legislators will work until First Adjournment scheduled for April 7. Legislators will then recess until Veto Session which begins on May 1. House and senate Leadership projected the 2017 session to last 100 days with the 2018 session lasting only 80 days, averaging out to 90 days per session. However, many anticipate the 2017 session will run much longer. As a reference point, May 14, will be the 90 day of the session.
One highlight of the 2017 session is the ability to access some hearings via the internet. A good link to use is Upcoming Events. This link provides the time and date of the committee meeting along with a very easy access port to hear, and in some cases, see the committee in action.
The Kansas Legislature has reached the turnaround deadline, a major milestone in the legislative session. Turnaround is the date upon which each piece of legislation must pass out of its house of origin (the chamber in which the legislation was first introduced). If the legislation fails to gain approval from its house of origin, it is dead for the remainder of the session and must wait till 2018 before it can be proposed again.
As with every rule, there are exceptions, and the turnaround deadline is not immune. For example, legislation not approved by its house of origin may survive if it was “blessed” by being referred to an exempt committee. Exempt committees include: House Appropriations, Senate Ways and Means, House and Senate Federal and State Affairs and House Taxation. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are not exempt committees.
As expected, a significant number of proposals fell by the wayside last week, allowing legislators to focus on the second act of the session which begins March 6.
The basics of the proposed tax plan are that retroactive to January 1, 2017, Kansas would revert back to a three-bracket tax system and halt the income tax reduction schedule. The tax plan debate generated a lot of headlines, mostly because the house passed it without question or debate. The house approved the tax plan 76-48, which was not a veto-proof margin. The senate then passed the bill 22-18. As you probably are aware, Gov. Brownback vetoed the legislation, forcing both chambers to attempt a veto override. The Kansas House was able to gain the necessary votes to override the veto on a 85-40 count. The vote tally can be found here: Sub HB2178.
The senate was not able to round up the 27 votes needed to override the governor’s veto, falling three votes short on a 24-16 vote. The senate roll can be found here: Sub HB2178
Although the override failed, the big news is the ability of moderate Republicans and Democrats to coalesce around an important statewide issue. The numbers prove that conservative leadership does not hold favor over either chamber. To move forward, leadership will need to be willing to compromise.
Another significant vote was the move to amend Medicaid Expansion into a germane bill in the house. This is important because early last week House Health and Human Services committee voted to table the issue. However, house democrats were able to add the provision into a related bill being debated. After several hours of debate, sometimes heated, moderates and democrats joined forces to pass the amendment on an 81-44 vote.
Conservatives who oppose Medicaid expansion will have to rely on the senate to kill the bill or on the governor to veto the measure.
Larry Rute also testified for the KBA on HB 2186 revising the Uniform Arbitration Act of 2000. This bill was debated by the House COW and amended when Rep. Stogsdill (D-Prairie Village) offered to include a provision dealing with teachers’ due process rights. The amendment was determined to be germane to the underlying bill because HB 2186 amended arbitration statutes, and teachers’ due process rights would be subject to these new laws. After more than 2 hours of debate the amended measure passed 68-57.
HB 2279 was heard yesterday in House Appropriations. Under current law, the Judicial Branch receives 33% of reinstatement fees. If HB 2279 is not passed, this fee will sunset, and the Judicial branch will be out around $950,000. These funds have been assumed in the FY18 & FY19 Judicial Budget request. Should the bill not pass, the courts face a significant budget cut.
These two bills are the judicial branch stand-alone budgets for the next two fiscal years. The judicial budget has already been folded into the Mega-Appropriations bill, but should it be stripped out, the Judicial Branch can fall back on these two measures.
The KBA worked with the Kansas Land Title Association and the Kansas Attorney General’s office on SB 10. The original language of the bill contained a provision criminalizing the filing of certain liens filed on public officials. The KBA negotiated with KLTA and the KSAG on a compromise amendment that satisfied all parties. However, when the amendment was added to the bill, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook expanded the protection against such liens from “public officials” only, to the “public” in general. The KBA finds this substantive change unacceptable. As such, the KBA Title Standard Committee opposes the bill. The KLTA and the KBA sent a letter to Senators opposing the amended bill. Prior to debate, SB 10 was referred to an exempt committee.
For many committees, last week was the final time they would meet prior to the Feb 23 Turnaround deadline. For the rest of this week, both chambers will be on the floor trying to pass bills before the deadline. If a bill is not passed by its House of Origin prior to the deadline, it is done for the session, unless it is from an “exempt” committee. Exempt committees include: House Appropriations, Senate Ways and Means, House and Senate Federal and State Affairs and House Taxation. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are not exempt committees; therefore, all legislation from either judiciary committee must be passed out prior to the deadline to be considered this session.
The basics of the proposed tax plan is that retroactive to January 1, 2017, Kansas reverts back to a three-bracket tax system and halts the income tax reduction schedule. The tax plan debate made a lot of headlines this week, mostly because the House passed it without any questions or debate. The House passed the tax plan 76-48; this is not a veto-proof margin. The Senate passed this tax bill 22-18. It’s important to remember that a veto proof margin would be 27 in the Senate. Securing five more votes in the Senate will be a heavy lift. The governor’s veto threat has real teeth now, although he could allow the legislation to become law without his signature. What happens now is anyone’s guess. Brownback has commented that he may very well veto this tax plan.
On Monday, all the action was in House Health and Human Services where the committee tried to pass out a Medicaid expansion bill. The vote was always going to be close, and on the first attempt to table the bill, fell equal at 11-11. However, after an amendment on residency requirements, opponents again tried to table the bill—this time with a date certain. The motion called for tabling the bill till Veto Session or April 3rd. That motion passed. However, House Health and Human Services Committee is not an exempt body which means HB 2154 would need to be blessed to survive the turnaround deadline. Since that has not happened, it would seem that Medicaid Expansion is done for the year. There is a bill on the Senate side, but that measure has no traction now.
Larry Rute also testified for the KBA on HB 2186 revising the Uniform Arbitration Act of 2000. Again, the committee was receptive to our arguments for needed revisions. This bill should be worked next week by the House Committee of the Whole.
HB 2279 was heard yesterday in House Appropriations. Under current law the Judicial Branch receives 33% of reinstatement fees. If HB 2279 is not passed, this fee will sunset, and the Judicial branch will be out around $950K. These funds are already in the FY18 & FY19 Judicial Budget request. Should the bill not be passed, the courts face a significant budget cut.
These two bills are the judicial branch stand-alone budgets for the next two fiscal years. The judicial budget has already been folded into the Mega-Appropriations bill, but should it be stripped out, the Judicial Branch can fall back on these two measures.
The KBA worked with the Kansas Land Title Association and the Kansas Attorney General’s office on SB 10. The original language of the bill contained a provision criminalizing the filing of certain liens filed on public officials. The KBA negotiated with KLTA and the KSAG on a compromise amendment that satisfied all parties. However, when the amendment was added to the bill, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook expanded the protection against such liens from “public officials” only, to the “public” in general. The KBA finds this significant change unacceptable. As such, the KBA Title Standard Committee opposes the bill. The KLTA and the KBA will submit a letter to Senators opposing the amended language.
The KBA was allowed a hearing on HB 2245 that repeals many provision on the 2016 law making attorney registration information open to the public. The KBA presented testimony and was represented by Nathan Eberline. Other supporters of HB 2245 were Wyandotte District Attorney Mark Dupree, Deb Hughes, Jay Hall, Callie Denton from Kansas Trial Lawyers Assn. and Marty Snyder. Stan Hazlett and Doug Shima provided background information. Opponents included Kansans for Life, the House GOP and the Kansas Rifle Association.
The Kansas Senate was all teed-up to debate two budget-centric bills last Thursday. One bill would raise some tax revenue; the other would cut K12 funding. However, Senate leadership decided to shelve the proposals. Many believe the K12 cuts put a damper on the total vote. Further muddying the water is the possible veto by the Governor. This makes a simple majority vote problematic. Many think a veto-proof majority would be needed to avoid the bill getting shoot down. The issue then is finding 27 votes among factions who differ drastically on how to balance the budget.
With no budget bills to debate, Senate leadership has decided to halt all other bills until some agreement can be reached. This means all bills currently sitting before the Senate will stay there. The turnaround deadline is 8 days away, so some bills will be killed for lack of action.
This gridlock has not slowed Senate committee hearings much at all. For instance, Senate Judiciary plans on working the entire week, something they have not done all session. Judiciary plans to hear 12 bills and work an unknown number on Friday. The Senate Fed/State committee will hear two immigration bills on Wednesday, Feb. 15th. Immigration issues have been on the minds of many in the Capitol these last few weeks, and now we get to hear what actions, if any, they plan to support. The KBA is monitoring these bills very closely.
On the House side, things are moving along nicely. The full House voted to approve HB 2041 extending the judicial branch surcharge fund. This bill merely extends the sunset date. The KBA advocated against removing the sunset because this surcharge fee was first proposed as a temporary stop gap measure.
House Judiciary has an equally busy schedule as they plan to hear ten bills this week. The KBA is deeply involved with HB 2245 which repeals large sections of a law put in place in 2016 requiring the Kansas Secretary of State to certify the list of lawyers eligible to vote in nominating commission elections. The KBA believes this law is overly burdensome and duplicative while allowing the possible release of personal information to the general public. The KBA is also concerned that eligible lawyers could be denied their right to vote in nominating commission elections. KBA will live-tweet the hearing and provide the testimony on our website.
Also, please find an updated bill tracking chart on the KBA website and new information regarding HB 2101 repealing common law marriages. The testimony from this hearing is now available on our website.
The Kansas Legislature will reach its halfway point of the 2017 session in two weeks. This means that certain non-exempt bills must advance out of their house of introduction, or be considered dead for the remainder of the session. However, several exempt committees continue to work through legislative initiatives. Exempt committees include House Appropriations, Senate Ways and Means, House and Senate Federal and State Affairs and House Taxation. House and Senate Judiciary Committees are not exempt committees, and all legislation must be passed out prior to the deadline to be considered.
This deadline creates a sense of urgency throughout the legislature as they continue to take action on bills passed out of various committees this week. Thus far, the Kansas Senate has made the most progress on pressing budgetary issues. The Senate Tax Committee chaired by Sen. Caryn Tyson plans to move a tax bill out as early as today. That plan calls for $288 million in new revenue in FY18 and $370 million in FY19. The hearing found far more opponents to raising taxes than proponents. Per the norm, opponents seek massive funding cuts to balance the books. That sentiment was echoed by Gov. Brownback who put out a press release tying this bill to Senate President Susan Wagle, who called it harmful to teachers, police officers and nurses. This bill may even be debated on the Senate floor as early as tomorrow.
On the judicial branch front, I can report that HB 2041 extending the judicial branch surcharge fund was recommended favorably for passage by the House Judiciary Committee. This bill merely extends the sunset date. The KBA advocated against removing the sunset because this surcharge fee was first proposed as a temporary stop gap measure. The KBA reiterated its position that judicial funding should be a state general fund appropriation. HB 2041 now heads to the House floor for debate by the entire chamber.
The House General Government Budget committee also recommended the judicial branch budget be passed favorably. The Senate Ways & Means Committee also reviewed the judicial branch recommendations and decided to place the judicial branch budget into the entire state budget. This is different than past years where the judicial branch budget was a stand-alone item.
The judicial branch has been able to reduce past requests for staffing due to efficiencies put in place. This year’s budget bill only added 20 new FTE whereas in years past the request was for 80. E-Filing has helped with this reduction. The budget request also seeks eight new judges with accompanying staff, and funds to remodel the judicial center so all judges can be housed on the upper floors. The plan is to have the clerk’s office move permanently to the first floor to aid in security and public access. We will continue to monitor the progress of the budget and report accordingly. With state funding at a premium, these requests may be axed during the debate, but adding the judicial funding package to the mega-appropriations bill is a step in the right direction.
Thus far this session the KBA has testified on seven bills, four of which were introduced by the KBA. Two are bills the KBA supports, and one is a bill the KBA is negotiating to amend.
Last week the KBA received hearings on all four of its bills.
Tim O’Sullivan testified for the KBA on HB 2126 & HB 2127. Both bills deal with trust issues. There is some concern that our proposal clarifying transfer on death deed (HB 2127) is too complicated so the committee may attempt to streamline the process.
Finally, House Judiciary heard from Bill Matthews and Prof. Webb Hecker on the benefit corporation proposal, HB 2125. They were joined by Bryan Welch CEO of B the Change Media in Lawrence. Matthews and Hecker provided foundational information for our proposal along with specific enhancements needed to enact Benefit Corporation statutes into current law. Welch provided the practical application of the law as it concerned his benefit corporation.
This bill is supported by Rep. Boog Highberger and Rep. John Wilson. We worked with both legislators on this bill.
For a list of all other bills being monitored by the KBA please visit: www.ksbar.org/page/bill_tracking. You will be able to link to bill language, hearing schedules and read testimony on certain bills of interest.
Last Wednesday, the Judicial Branch budget was heard before the House General Government Budget Committee. The judicial budget includes pay increases totaling $20.8 million in FY18 and $20.9 million in FY19. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss led the charge by explaining the need for pay increases. CJ Nuss pointed out that all the efficiencies gained through e-filing and other cost saving measures were eroded away by new employee training costs and. In the past, the Judicial Branch kept open 80-110 full time positions but due to greater efficiency within the court system those open full time positions have been paired to 20. Unfortunately, those cost savings could not be fully realized due to extremely high employee turnover. For instance, in the Tenth Judicial District, 37 employees left for better paying jobs last year. The KBA was one of more than a dozen organizations to support the budget as submitted. The Senate Ways & Means Subcommittee on the Judiciary held a hearing on the judicial budget on yesterday. You can review the testimony here: JBB_GGB_20170125.pdf
The Judicial Branch bill, HB 2041 , to extend the surcharge fund also had a hearing on yesterday. This bill extends the surcharge for another two-year period. The surcharge is responsible for around 6% of the judicial budget. The KBA supports this bill.
The KBA has been monitoring several bills in House Judiciary include SB 10 prohibiting the filing of liens on certain public officials. This rather benign bill has a new section that reads - New Sec. 2 (a) It shall be unlawful for a person to present to a recorder of record for filing in any public record any lien or claim against the real or personal property of a public official, when such person knows or reasonable should know that such lien or claim is false, or contains any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations.
This language criminalizes filing of certain liens. Members from the Kansas Land Title Association, many of whom are also members of the KBA Title Standards Committee, expressed concerns. The KBA is working with the KTLA and the KS Attorney General’s Office on new language
Four KBA proposals will have hearings next week. They include:
Legislators Grapple with KanCare Findings and Tax Policy
Week two started off quietly but ended with a five-hour hearing on the LLC loophole. Thirty or so individuals representing all manner of interest groups testified last Thursday and continued Friday. It was contentious at times, with many arguing over a fiscal note that seems to downplay the impact closing the loophole would have on the budget. A smaller amount generated from closing the loophole would be a win for the governor because legislators would have to strongly consider his one-time payments to balance the budget. See:
In judiciary committee, the Kansas Attorney General provided testimony on SB 10 which criminalizes the filing of liens on public officials. The bill would make it “unlawful for any person to present to a recorder of record for filing in any public record any lien or claim against the real or personal property of a public official, when such person knows or reasonably should know that such lien or claim is false or contains any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation”.
This will create an issue for real estate attorneys and title insurance practitioners who frequently file liens on homes. The language will need to be modified before passage to address these concerns. The KBA is actively engaged on this issue, and we are working with the Kansas Land Title Association and the Kansas Realtors to make amendments.
In House Judiciary, a bill repealing common law marriage was introduced on the behalf of Charles Harris. This is a hotly contested issue, and the KBA is monitoring it closely.
The KBA also introduced four bills last Thursday. The first bill deals with mediation and arbitration provisions in trust instruments. That bill has an RS# of 17rs196. The second bill amends the transfer of death deed statute. That bill has an RS# of 17rs199. The third bill deals creating a new business entity type called Benefit Corporations. That bill has an RS# of 17rs170. Finally, the fourth bill amends the Uniform Arbitration Act of 1955. That bill has an RS# of 17rs438.
As you are aware the Kansas Legislature returned Monday, Jan. 9. Traditionally the first week is rather uneventful. The primary goal of legislators and committees is to acquaint themselves with chamber rules, committee assignments and new staff members. However, this year committees began meeting and hearing proposals almost immediately. For instance, the House has already introduced a bill to repeal the LLC loophole. This proposal will be heard this Thursday, January 19, in House Tax. The bill is HB 2023 titled Determination of Kansas adjusted gross income, sunsetting certain modifications.
In addition, the Kansas Judicial Branch spent the week updating both judiciary committees on its operation, equipment, programs and budget. The Office of the Judicial Administrator has already requested raises in their initial budget proposal which the governor has passed through for legislators to consider. There has been some discussion on the amount of raises for nonjudicial staff but there appears to be significant hesitation to increase judicial pay. OJA reported that $12.6 million is needed to raise nonjudicial salaries to match surround states.
OJA has also introduced a bill to extend the surcharge fees. This is an extension and not an increase. The law needs to be renewed or it automatically sunsets on June 30. See HB 2041.
The Kansas Supreme Court held a swearing-in of all appellate judges being retained after the general election. This ceremony was very well attended. You can watch the ceremony here: https://www.youtu.be/QGMCdsy20Oo.
Chief Justice Nuss will also return to the House Chamber to give the State of the Judiciary speech. This marks the first time in four years the speech will take place in the Capital.
The Governor discussed a wide variety of topics including budget issues, higher education costs and poverty. He failed to mention water rights or any changes to judicial selection. Specifics on his budget proposal came on Wednesday when budget director Shawn Sullivan introduced the 2017 recession bill and 2018 budget to a joint meeting of legislators.
The highlights are to increase sin taxes (tobacco/alcohol), sweep funds from KDOT and liquidate certain investment funds. The plan would increase tobacco tax by $1.00 and double the alcohol tax to 16%. The plan also calls for freezing the income tax cut for the lowest bracket at 2.7%. Under the 2012 tax cut all rates would shift downward till they reached zero.
The governor’s budget also looks to sweep nearly $600 million from KDOT over the next 30 months. This sweep would delay all new highway projects for two years, maintenance will continue as scheduled. It was recently reported that Kansas ranks 50th in new highway projects.
The most controversial issue would be selling off the tobacco settlement funds. Under Gov. Brownback’s plan the state would forego 30 years of tobacco payments in exchange for $530 million now. The state takes in around $60 million from this settlement each year. If my math is correct this would mean the state would trade $1.8 BILLION spread over three decades for $530 million this year.
Many are skeptical of this approach and its viability is in question.
“Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, the House budget chairman, called the 30-year commitment “way too long” and said the proposal would cause “a lot of angst” among lawmakers. “I really don’t think that’s going to gain any traction,” Waymaster said.”
The KBA will introduce four proposals next week. The first is the Transfer on Death deed amendments, codifying Alternative Dispute Resolution in wills/trust, enactment of Benefit Corporations in Kansas and an update to the Uniform Arbitration Act.
On Monday, January 9, the Kansas Legislature opened its doors. The election season allows us to welcome 60 new faces to the Capitol; these new legislators will have an immediate impact on policy going forward. Conservatives continue to control the house but by a slim margin. There is an opportunity for Democrats and moderates to work together to lift some very heavy policy pieces. Look for early action to repeal the LLC loophole and discussion to expand Medicaid.
We will also see significant change in both judiciary committees this session. Sen. Rick Wilborn will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee and Rep. Blaine Finch has been tasked with the house committee. The house committee is stacked with 11 lawyer/legislators whereas the senate committee has on its roster Sen. David Haley, who is law-trained but non-practicing. The lack of lawyers in the Senate will create an interesting dynamic when both chambers debate technical legal issues and when they meet for conference committee.
These legislators face an uphill battle from day one. The state finds itself in a $340 million hole for this fiscal year which ends June 30. This budget hole only grows when discussing FY18. There was some good news in December as revenues surpassed estimates for the first time since July. The $6 million overage is helpful but a more robust figure is needed to make a dent in the shortage.
Legislators will also focus on crafting a new school finance formula. Schools are currently operating under a block grant formula which many want to change. How this is changed is yet to be seen, but some pundits believe the block grant approach could be used again. Several school districts, public policy outfits and interested parties have submitted their thoughts to the governor but as of the start of the session, no one has a good idea how to handle the situation.
Besides focusing on the state budget and school finance, the legislature will consider a significant increase to judicial branch personnel salaries. The Office of Judicial Administration put forth a proposal seeking $20 million in state general funds for pay raises for judges and staff. Currently, Kansas ranks 50 in judicial pay and 45 when accounting for inflation. It has been reported that judicial branch employees often hold two or three jobs to make ends meet. See:http://kscourts.org/Kansas-Courts/General-Information/News-Releases.asp#111816 .
The KBA will introduce four proposals: two dealing with probate issues, one making changes to the uniform law concerning arbitration, and a new business association type called Benefit Corporations. Look for these bills and others that affect the practice of law in the KBA 2017 Bill Tracking Chart. The bill tracking chart will be released on Friday, Jan. 13, with bi-weekly updates thereafter.
For information on legislators, bills and committee assignments please look at www.ksbar.org starting on Jan. 16. You can also find information at www.kslegisalture.org . To get live updates during the session you can follow us on twitter @KansaBarLeg .