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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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Top tags: Author: Joseph N. Molina III  2019 Session  2019-20  legislature  budget  election  Brownback  Supreme Court  Judicial Branch  school finance  Court of Appeals  Gannon  Hard 50  Kansas Supreme Court  Special Session  2016 Session  2017 session  2017-18  Alleyne  fall legislative conference  Senate  Sine Die  State of the Judiciary  2019 Golf Tournament  Caleb Stegall  conference  election day  First Adjournment  HCR 5005  House of Representatives 

First Adjournment!

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2018

 

A little after 12:30 a.m. on April 8th, the Kansas Legislature gaveled out. This ended a marathon 14-hour session and closed out the 2018 regular session. All that remains is Veto Session, beginning on April 26th. The late night (or early morning, depending on your point of view) was caused by some clever political maneuvering by the Kansas Senate.

As background, both chambers have been working on a school finance plan throughout the session, and it was thought that an agreement was reached between leadership that would have a school finance plan using dollar figures important to the House with policy changes important to the Senate.

Under this agreement, the House would pass the school finance plan first, which it did 63-56. The bill, HB 423, was then enrolled with the Senate which promptly sat on it in lieu of a tax bill, S Sub for HB 2228. The tax bill is designed to return to Kansas citizens the revenue windfall the state has seen due to the federal tax law changes. Doing this will reduce the amount of revenue the state has available, making it harder to pay for the school finance plan.

Only after the tax plan was passed by the Senate did they take up the school finance plan. The late start allowed the Senate to filibuster the school finance plan since the legislature is under a hard midnight deadline when an adjournment resolution is not passed by both chambers. The adjournment resolution allows the legislature to extend the session past the 90-day mark. Without this resolution, all bills not signed by the Governor are dead, and the session adjourns Sine Die. The House finally agreed to the Senate Adjournment Resolution with under a minute left before midnight. Once this was done, the school finance votes started rolling in and SB 423 was passed 21-16.

What the school finance filibuster accomplished remains unclear, but we do know that the Veto Session will last only 8 days, making it very difficult to override any vetoes from Gov. Colyer should he decide to exercise that power. This was about as much drama as we have seen in the Kansas Legislature this session.

For what its worth, Kansas Legislative Research just uncovered an error in the school finance plan. The error omits nearly $80 million from the total amount legislators intended to appropriate. See; http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article208416824.html

Legislators are hopeful that this error can be corrected when they return.

Also still in play is HCR 5029, establishing adequacy of financing for education as exclusively within the legislative power of the state. This is an amended version from the initial resolution. The amended version points out that the legislature has the power of the purse, but the courts retain the power to review equity standards associated with school finance. The amended version also removes any mention of the courts in the explanatory section of the resolution.

Passing HCR 5029 will require a 2/3rd majority vote in both chambers. This is a hard sell in the Senate but an even more challenging proposal in the House. The Kansas House has 85 Republicans and 40 Democrats. Should the Democrats vote as a block, leadership could only spare to lose one republican vote. This is a difficult proposition since several moderate republicans have already declared their opposition to HCR 5029. How this plays out remains to be seen.

Finally, the Kansas Legislative Research Department provides a Summary of Legislation report. This report is provided in three summaries. The first summary can be found here: http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/SummaryofLegislation/PreliminarySummaries/2018-preliminary-summary.pdf.

Look for the two remaining summaries in the coming weeks.

 

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The End is Nigh

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Monday, April 2, 2018

 

Week 12 saw committee meetings end for the most part, and work begin on the floors of both chambers. The Senate passed its version of the state budget sans K12 funding. The idea is to wait until veto session before crafting the school finance fix and then see if anything is left for other increases (judicial pay raises).

The Senate also passed the Adoption Protection Act when they combined it with the Adoption & Relinquishment Act.  The KBA opposed the Adoption Protection Act and took no position on the Adoption & Relinquishment Act. The combined bill passed the Senate 28-12.

Rep. Susan Humphries did attempt to have the House concur on the Senate bill last Thursday, but that motion failed 58-64. The bill was then reconsidered so it could be sent to conference committee.  Rep. Finch, Ralph and Carmichael were appointed to the conference committee.  The KBA will monitor this conference committee closely and report back with updates.

See HB 2481 history here: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/hb2481/

The House K12 committee reported out a proposal to add another $500 million for schools over the next five years. This is far from what the study projected was needed to meet certain benchmarks but is enough to maintain current achievements. See: http://kansaspublicradio.org/kpr-news/kansas-republican-plan-would-boost-school-spending-500-million  See: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article207210479.html

For his part, Gov. Colyer has not directly supported the $500 million school funding proposal, but he hasn’t shied away from it either. Given his previous statements on school funding, one could predict he would sign the legislation should it reach his desk. See: http://kmuw.org/post/colyer-says-house-bill-meets-his-guidelines

A constitutional amendment to limit the Supreme Court’s power has been introduced in the Kansas House. HCR 5029 states that the financing of the educational interests of this state is exclusively a legislative power and cannot be altered or revoked by any state court. The resolution is something a newly formed non-profit, Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding, discussed last week after the K12 report was released. See: https://www.facebook.com/KASB.Topeka/videos/1688552407858201/

The House Judiciary Committee will hold hearings this week for the HCR 5029. Monday is an informational hearing, Tuesday for proponents and opponents and Wednesday will allow the committee to work the bill. To pass, the House needs to approve the measure with 84 votes, the Senate with 27.

Finally, the Kansas Legislature is quickly approaching Drop Dead Day, April 6th. This marks the last day to consider bills, except those vetoed by the Governor, omnibus appropriations bills and spending bills.  Both chambers will be working on the floor and in conference committee this week.

 

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Save the Date for the KBA Golf Tournament!

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Monday, March 19, 2018
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2018

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Progress

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Monday, March 12, 2018
Things have picked up in the Capitol this first full week after Turnaround. Both chambers are hearing a serious number of bills.  House Judiciary held 5 hearings in one afternoon this past Monday, all mostly uncontroversial, but that is still a large number to run in a single day.

On the Senate side, Ways & Means Committee discussed the judicial branch budget. The Sub-Committee did not have a recommendation, so the entire committee reviewed the enhancement request en banc. There was not much appetite to pass the recommendations for increased wages out of committee.  Instead the committee decided to push the issue off till Veto Session. The thinking is that the committee will have a better understanding of revenue numbers when the April estimates are revealed.  It was mentioned in committee that judicial branch employees did get a 2.5% raise last year.

Also of note is that the FY18 Judicial Budget request was $3.5 million BELOW the FY 17 budget.  Sen. Skubal explained that the decrease was from E-filing and other efficiencies.

The committee did recommend approving the $200K for Judicial Center renovations.

House Appropriations will be holding a hearing on judicial wages for the standalone bill, HB 2689.  This bill is for wages only. The three other enhancements—added judges, staff and renovations—are not included in this bill. The KBA will SUPPORT this measure and its identical counterpart in the Senate.

Senate Judiciary will be hearing HB 2481, the Kansas Adoption and Relinquishment Act.  This is a bill worked on by the Kansas Judicial Council Family Law Advisory Committee.

Last week, the big issue was Teacher Due Process. The Kansas House passed the Teacher Due Process bill on Thursday 73-48. The bill now heads to the Senate. While on the Senate side the SCR 1611, Convention of the States failed to gain a constitutional majority and died on the floor.

Finally, the KBA is fully engaged in the KBA Day at the Capitol event. The event is set for Monday, March 19th.  We will meet at the KBA then head over to the Capitol for legislator meetings, break for lunch with Lawyer-Legislators, continue our legislator meetings in the p.m., and end the day back at the KBA for a debriefing. We look forward to productive meeting with legislators on judicial branch budget issues.

If you would like to participate, please contact Joseph Molina at jmolina@ksbar.org

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Quiet Before the Storm

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Monday, March 5, 2018

 

The week after the Turnaround Deadline is normally quiet as legislators settle in for the final four weeks of the session.  This year it was noticeably slow going. Only a few legislative committees had meetings, and little work was done on the floor of either chamber. 
 
Good News— it was reported yesterday that monthly revenues for February were more than $26 million above estimates. That brings the fiscal year total to more than $270 million above estimates. Some of this increase could be due to the federal tax cut but how much can be attributed to the cut is uncertain.
See — https://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/news/2018/03/01/kansas-tax-receipts-over-state-projection-for.html
See also — http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2018/mar/01/kansas-collects-27m-more-taxes-expected-february/ 
And see — https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/kansas/articles/2018-03-01/kansas-collects-27m-more-in-taxes-than-expected-in-february
 
Bad News— Kansas suffered from another IT information breach, this time from KDADS.  It was reported that social security numbers and home addresses were sent to unauthorized businesses, but no banking information was compromised. The release of personal electronic information has become quite the issue for the State of Kansas lately. It has become so much so that a bill, HB 2560, Kansas Cybersecurity Act, was introduced prior to the Turnaround Deadline; however, that bill did not gain much traction. This latest event might rejuvenate that proposal.  
See — https://www.kdads.ks.gov/media-center/news-releases/2018/03/01/kdads-notifies-consumers-about-potential-breach-of-protected-health-information
See also — http://www.cjonline.com/news/20180301/kdads-mistakenly-releases-medical-confidential-information-on-11000-kansans
And see — http://kcur.org/post/kansas-aging-agency-spills-personal-information-11000-people#stream/0

 
Big News— The KBA will hold its Day at the Capitol on March 19th.  The agenda will include a 9:30 a.m. welcome from the KBA followed by comments from Chief Justice Nuss.  Volunteers will head over to the Capitol at 10 a.m. to begin meeting with legislators. We will have lunch in the Capitol from noon-1:00 p.m., followed by an afternoon session of legislator meetings.  Volunteers can plan to be back at the KBA by 3:00 p.m. for a debriefing and reception.
 
If you are interested in volunteering to meet with your legislator to discuss wage increases for the Judicial Branch, please contact me at jmolina@ksbar.org

 

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Turnaround!

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Kansas Legislature reached its halfway point of the 2018 session on February 23rd with the passage of the House of Origin deadline, marking the date in which all non-exempt legislation must advance out of its house of introduction, or is considered dead for the remainder of the session.  However, several exempt committees continue to work through legislative initials.  These 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 and all legislation must be passed out prior to the deadline to be considered.

Thus far the session and most of the state has been focused on the K12 funding.  State revenue has begun to climb out of the previous year’s poor returns but even these better than expected numbers are not enough to cover the cost of school.  Many in the Capitol strongly oppose raising taxes to pay for K12 and they are looking at some sort of cut. There has been very little direction given from the new governor, so legislators are taking the lead. What proposes spring forth are yet to be determined.

Judicial Budget

The judicial branch was able to discuss their enhancement request with both the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee.  The request includes; add $19.6 million to the judicial budget for judicial raises ($7.5 million); nonjudicial raises ($10.3 million), 7 new judges/staff ($772K); 20 unfunded positions ($875K) and judicial suite renovations ($200K).  The issue is a controversial one that will require addition attention going forward.  

Raises for judicial staff are also proposed in standalone bills. Those bills include:

The judicial branch was able to get is docket fee extension thru the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.  The measure passed the KS Senate 39-0.  It now goes to the House with a likely referral to House Judiciary. 

HB 2560 enacts the Kansas Cybersecurity Act which will impact judicial Branch employees. This measure was stricken from the calendar.  It was not referred to an exempt committee before the deadline, so it is likely done for the year.

 

HB 2645|Making appropriations for FY 2019 for the judicial branch; salary increases for justices, judges and nonjudicial employees.
HB 2645 changes where the primary district magistrate judge will reside in the 4th district from Osage to Coffey county. This bill has not been moved forward in the legislative process.

 

SB 395

Setting a maximum final average salary amount for purposes of computing retirement benefits for certain members of KPERS, KP&F and the retirement system for judges.

SB 395 appears to cap a judge’s final average salary for KPERS purposes at $99,636.00.  This bill did not pass out of committee and did not make it to the Senate Floor.

 

SB 411

Allowing certain persons with suspended driving privileges to enter into amnesty agreements with the division of vehicles.

SB 411 is an issue previously introduced by Judge Phil Journey regarding the Traffic Fee Amnesty Program.  This bill was not given a hearing or referred to an exempt committee.

Family Law Bills

SB 257

Creating a presumption of child's equal time with parents during court determinations of legal custody, residency or parenting time

The KBA Family Law Section opposed SB 257. This bill was not passed out of committee or referred to an exempt committee.

 

HB 2529

Creating a presumption of child's equal time with parents during court determinations of legal custody, residency or parenting time

Charles Harris appeared on behalf of the KBA to oppose HB 2529 which is the identical bill filled in the Senate (SB 257). This bill was not passed out of committee or referred to an exempt committee.

 

HB 2481

Updating the KS Adoption and relinquishment act

HB 2481 is an update to adoption law introduced by the Kansas Judicial Council. This bill passed the KS House 117-0.  It has been referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

HB 2524

Allowing petitions for a protection from abuse order to include a request for transfer of rights to a wireless telephone number

HB 2524 would make it easier to separate cell phone account in domestic abuse situations.  This bill was passed 117-0 in the KS House. Ron Nelson worked closely with the sponsor of the bill on several amendments to this bill.

 

HB 2520

Retroactive child support guidelines

The KBA Family Law Section recommends the KBA oppose HB 2520 because it places limits on retroactive child support orders, limits the courts decision-making process and is not in the best interest of the child. This bill was not passed out of committee nor referred to an exempt committee.

 

HB 2687

Creating the Adoption Protection Act

SB 401

Creating the Adoption Protection Act

This bill allows any child placement agency to refuse to make a placement that violates the agencies sincerely held religious beliefs.  The KBA Family Law Section strongly opposes these two identical bills. No hearings have been set but these bills are exempt from the Turnaround Deadline having been introduced into exempt committees.

 

HB 2630

Adding protecting children from witnessing abuse to the list of factors the court considers when determining custody, residency or parenting time

This bill was rejected by the Kansas Judicial Council Family Law Advisory Committee in 2016. The KBA Family Law Section strongly opposes this bill because it would enact the so called “protective parent defense” which would discount the “friendly parent” factor included in the child custody factors. The friendly parent factor has long been in the cross-hairs of some asserting that it encourages abusive and manipulative parents to the detriment of a parent (the abused parent) who is protecting the child by various actions that otherwise would be considered as “alienating.” 

This bill did not pass the Kansas House.

Real Property Bills

HB 2506

Rehabilitation of abandoned property by cities

This bill would allow cities, as well as certain organizations as authorized by current law, to take temporary possession of abandoned property for purposes of rehabilitating the property. The bill would also make many definitional and other changes to laws dealing with rehabilitation of abandoned property. The Title Standard Committee reviewed but declined to make a formal recommendation. The Kansas House passed this bill 90-32 last week.

 

HB 2727

Requiring contracts for the sale of real estate to provide notice of mineral, oil and gas interests.

This bill is in response to Adamson vs. Drill Baby Drill LLC.  The bill would require additional notice be given to potential homeowners when a mineral lease is separate from the surface rights. The bill was not debated by the House committee of the Whole.

 

SB 329

Enacting the uniform partition of heirs property act

This bill would enact the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act. The bill would assist in the partition of property, which is owned as tenants in common and some portion was inherited, or the co-tenants are relatives. The KBA Title Standard Committee recommends the KBA oppose this bill. This bill did not pass out of the House.

 

Litigation Bills

HB 2461

Awarding costs and attorney fees to plaintiffs prevailing in unpaid wage claims

This bill was not passed by the House prior to the deadline.

 

HB 2550

Removing caps on damages in wrongful death actions except those against certain healthcare provider

This bill was referred to House Appropriations and is now exempt from the Turnaround Deadline.

 

HB 2579

Providing compensation for a person who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned

I believe these three bills were introduced by Rep. Tim Hodge (D-Newton) to claw back provisions lost during previous legislatures.  This bill was passed 116-1.

 

SB 266

Amending the collateral source definition for crime victim’s compensation fund

SB 266 was introduced by the Ks Attorney General’s office Crime Victim’s Compensation Board.  The bill broadly defines what collateral source means when dealing with the crime victim’s compensation board.  As testified the bill would amend the definition of “collateral source” to include “any other source” received by or readily available to the victim or claimant before the Board would discuss compensation for the victim.  This bill was passed 38-0 and referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

 

SB 277

Extending recognition to tribal court judgments pursuant to supreme court rules

This bill was sponsored by the Kansas judicial Council to codify a civil law practice into law.  Make judicial district are already recognizing these types of judgments via court rule.  This bill simply puts into law what has already become practice.  No action was taken on this bill.

 

SB 296

Allowing evidence of failure to use a safety belt to be admissible in any action for certain purposes

This bill was introduced by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.  The bill was supported by GM and several defense lawyers, including KADC.  The Kansas Trial Lawyers Association opposed. This bill passed 25-15.

 

SB 199

Appeal bonds

This bill was a carryover from 2017 and it was introduced by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. The bill was aimed at pending litigation and attempted to make certain aspects of appeal bond requirements retroactive.  The bill also lowered the bond amount if a defendant could show it was a small business as defined by the new bill.  The retroactive provisions were removed from the bill in committee.  This bill passed the Senate on Wednesday, February 14th on a 32-7 vote. Referred to House judiciary.

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Judicial Budget Lows

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Monday, February 12, 2018

 

Week 5 saw the second State of the State Address—the first for Gov. Colyer. The address focused on three main areas: transparency, jobs and education. The Governor has already signed an executive order making the first 100 pages of a KORA request free of charge. He will also require annual sexual harassment training for state employees.

 

Colyer also want to focus on keeping schools open, accountability for new money used and stopping the endless lawsuits. He hinted at a constitutional amendment, but his speech did not provide any other details. Colyer also suggested a constitutional amendment dealing with pro-life laws but again no specifics were given. For more information please see; https://go.ksbar.org/2sqGaFI; See also; https://go.ksbar.org/2EXmsUy

For our purposes, Week 5 was focused on the Judicial Budget—specifically, raises for staff and judges. Last Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee debated the Judicial Branch request to add $19.6 million to the judicial budget for judicial raises ($7.5 million); nonjudicial raises ($10.3 million), seven new judges/staff ($772K); 20 unfunded positions ($875K) and judicial suite renovations ($200K).

Several members of the appropriations committee challenged the facts the court used to arrive at these numbers. The concerns were wide-ranging and included inaccurate figures to a poor wage survey to using non-neighbor states for comparison (IOWA). 

Others were concerned that the total increase would be 18% above the current SGF for the Judicial Branch. The strongest opponents to the recommendations were Rep. Hoffman (R-Coldwater); Rep. Williams (R-Augusta) and Rep. Claeys (R-Salina).

Several members felt that an increase of over 21% for judges was out of line, and they would rather focus on nonjudicial staff. Rep. Claeys felt it more appropriate to fund correction officer raises due to the safety issues they are facing.

Overall, the recommendation was not well received, and it appears that the committee has very little appetite for any raise for judges.

In the end, Rep. Hoffman made a motion to strike the entire judicial budget enhancements from the recommendation. They did discuss bringing the issue up again. Chairman Waymaster would like more information from the courts concerning the amount of the raises and how they arrived at those numbers.

Next week the Senate Ways & Means Subcommittee will hear the judicial branch enhancement requests. The KBA will again be submitting testimony in support. You can view the judicial branch budget enhancement request on the KBA website.

 

There are two stand-alone bills dealing with judicial salaries still out there, one in each chamber:

HB 2689      Making appropriations for FY 2019 for the judicial branch; salary increases for justices, judges and nonjudicial employees.

SB 388        Making appropriations for FY 2019 for the judicial branch; salary increases for justices, judges and nonjudicial employees.         

                    Neither are set for hearing, but they both will survive the Turnaround Deadline since they are in exempt committees.

 

Here are a few other bills being monitored by the KBA that could affect the judicial branch:

HB 2560      Kansas Cybersecurity Act

                    HB 2560 enacts the Kansas Cybersecurity Act which would impact judicial branch employees. OJA is working with the committee to exempt the Judicial Branch. I will continue to monitor its progress.

 

HB 2645      Changing district magistrate judge position assignments in the 4th judicial district

HB 2645       would change the residence for the primary district magistrate judge in the 4th district from Osage to Coffey county. The 4th District has two magistrates assigned with one being housed in Osage County and the other rotating between Coffey, Anderson and Franklin. No hearing date set.

 

SB 395        Setting a maximum final average salary amount for purposes of computing retirement benefits for certain members of KPERS, KP&F and the retirement system for judges.

                    SB 395 appears to cap a judge’s final average salary for KPERS purposes at $99,636.00. This is also done for magistrate judges. We continue to monitor this issue.

 

SB 411        Allowing certain persons with suspended driving privileges to enter into amnesty agreements with the division of vehicles.

                    SB 411 is an issue previously introduced by Judge Phil Journey regarding the Traffic Fee Amnesty Program. The only difference is that this bill allows the Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles to run the program instead of the courts. No hearing is scheduled at this time.

 

While this week’s focus was on the judicial branch’s proposal, other bills were introduced that need careful consideration; they include:

 

Family Law

HB 2524      Allowing petitions for a protection from abuse order to include a request for transfer of rights to a wireless telephone number

HB 2529      Creating a presumption of child's equal time with parents during court determinations of legal custody, residency or parenting time

HB 2630      Adding protecting children from witnessing abuse to the list of factors the court considers when determining custody, residency or parenting time

HB 2687      Creating the Adoption Protection Act

SB 390        Creating the Extreme Risk Protective Order Act

SB 401        Creating the Adoption Protection Act

 

Real Property

HB 2452      Limiting the duration of certain conservation easements

HB 2727      Requiring contracts for the sale of real estate to provide notice of mineral, oil and gas interests.

SB 329        Enacting the uniform partition of heirs property act

 

Litigation

SB 266        Amending the collateral source definition for crime victim’s compensation fund

SB 277        Extending recognition to tribal court judgments pursuant to supreme court rules

SB 296        Allowing evidence of failure to use a safety belt to be admissible in any action for certain purposes

SB 409        Creating procedures for limiting contact with jurors

 

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Regime Change - Kansas

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Friday, February 2, 2018

The last day in January ended up being the last day of the Brownback Administration. Gov. Brownback officially resigned at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 31st. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer then took the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Nuss. Secretary of State Kris Kobach—who normally does the swearing-in—did not attend. Gov. Colyer wants to set a different tone going forward, what that means remains to be seen. Gov. Colyer is the 47th Governor of the State of Kansas.

See; http://bit.ly/2nrEhni ; see also; http://tigermedianet.com/?p=36346 and http://bit.ly/2GDcisA .

Interesting fact: Only two Kansas Governors have served two full terms: John Carlin and Bill Graves.

Last week the KBA testified on two bills:

SB 309  | Providing for the disposition of judicial branch docket fees in FY 2020 and FY 2021
The KBA also testified on SB 309. Under current law, the first $3.1 million of any remaining docket fee revenue is credited to the Electronic Filing and Management Fund (EFMF) through FY 2019. Beginning in FY 2020, the amount will be reduced to $1.0 million. SB 309 would extend the $3.1 million credit through FY 2021. Beginning in FY 2022, and every fiscal year after, the bill would increase the $1.0 million credit to $1.5 million.

The court had requested an extension of this docket fee distribution on two previous occasions. Both times, the request was made to give the courts the revenue required to complete the E-Filing process. This time, the request has been made to make it possible for the court to complete the case management program.

SB 309 was recommended favorably by Senate Judiciary and is headed to the full Senate.

 

The KBA continues to monitor two family law bills that had hearings last week. They are:

Next Week the KBA will monitor the following hearings:

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Under New Management

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Monday, January 29, 2018

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted 50-49 (VP Pence broke tie) to confirm Gov. Sam Brownback as the U.S. Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Brownback will officially resign as governor on Wednesday, January 31st, handing over the executive branch to Lt. Gov. Jeff Coyler.

See: http://bit.ly/2DRHkyE; See also: http://nyti.ms/2rCNOfS; and http://bit.ly/2BteZJr.

This has been in the works for several months now and allows for a certain level of stability in the Capitol. The big question is how the new governor will handle the biggest issue on the session: K12 funding. While serving as the Lt. Gov., Colyer hinted at possible solutions, but he failed to provide any specific details (See: http://bit.ly/2EaYzIE). Legislative leaders have taken a different approach by challenging Kansas Board of Education Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis who is the pre-eminent figure on K12 funding. The allegations include misallocation of transportation funds totaling $405 million over several decades. See: http://bit.ly/2ngovKT; See also: http://bit.ly/2FjlxN9.

Senate President Wagle and Speaker Ryckman sent a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education outlining the audit’s findings and asking that Dennis be placed on administrative leave pending a forensic audit. The legislators also met with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to discuss other options.

The public reaction to this letter has been swift. All the major teaching associations and school groups issued a letter in support of Dennis. Many legislators have publicly supported Dennis and joined the “Team Dale” movement. For its part, the Kansas Board of Education met in executive session last week to discuss this issue.

The audit findings are curious, but some believe that scapegoating Dennis is a way to undermine the K12 funding formula currently in place. This could open the door for an argument that the Kansas Supreme Court made its ruling on erroneous facts. We will see how far this strategy goes.

Last week, Kansas also got a new U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas when Steve McCallister was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. McCallister was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last month.

This Week...

The KBA will be testifying on two bills. They include:

 

Legislative Bill Tracking Chart

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Settling In!

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Monday, January 22, 2018

In the second week of the legislative session things appear to be settling down. This week was anchored by the State of the Judiciary Address given by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. The crux of the 40-minute speech was the issue of salaries for judicial branch employees and judges. Chief Justice Nuss pointed out that Kansas ranks 50th in employee pay even after last session’s 2.5 percent increase. The Judicial Branch experiences employee turnover at five times the national average. Every staff position within the judicial branch has a starting wage below market value. Nuss pointed out that when Wal-Mart phases in their new starting wage of $11 per hour, it will be nearly the same as a starting wage for certain court positions. The court is losing employees to Wal-Mart, Target etc., due to salaries. You can read about the salary issue here: http://bit.ly/2FVoLaR

You can read the entire speech here: http://bit.ly/2DqzrAE

In the Senate Judiciary Committee, hearings were held on SB 199 dealing with appeal bonds. This bill creates a small business category for appeal bonds by defining a small business as having 50 or fewer employees and no more than $50 million in annual revenue. The bill also retroactively applies to any appeal that has not been resolved filed prior to the effective date of the bill. KTLA opposed the bill while the KS Association of Defense Counsel supported it. This bill was originally introduced by the Kansas Chamber.

The House Judiciary Committee also held hearings this week with SB 181 being heard on Thursday. SB 181 would authorize a district court judge to enter into amnesty programs for traffic fines. These fines are a dedicated revenue stream for the judicial branch, and the amnesty program would cost the court some money. The bill was supported by Judge Phil Journey and Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau. Both believe that this type of penalty to be a tax on the poor.

Two groups opposed the bill: Kansas District Judges Association and the Kansas Association of District Court Clerks & Administrators. Both groups stated this would create extra work for clerks which would require at least four full-time employees. For its part, OJA created an ad hoc committee to study municipal court fines and fees and draft a report with recommendations. This committee is chaired by Municipal Court Judge (City of Salina) Brenda Stoss. The committee did not make any recommendations.

 

Both judiciary committees have full schedules this week as a host of family law bills, criminal bills and administrative measures are discussed and/or set for hearing. Look for the House Judiciary Committee to discuss civil asset forfeiture late next week while the Senate Judiciary Committee spends Monday discussing Human Trafficking.

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