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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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Special Session Gearing up

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

The Kansas Legislature will reconvene this Thursday, June 23, 2016 for a special session to deal with the school finance issue. This is very similar to the special session from 2005, but this time the Kansas Supreme Court has set a school closing deadline on June 30. See http://bit.ly/28J0Cst

With time being of the essence, more than 30 lawmakers attended a Joint Meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to discuss ideas on complying with the court order and several constitutional amendments to limit the court’s power to order schools closed again.

The two-day meeting was broken down in a history lesson on school finance, public comments from interested parties (school advocacy groups, the legal community, KPI etc.) and recommendations from committee members. See http://www.ksbar.org/page/judicialservices and http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/2016SpecialSession.html.

The Kansas Bar Association is an opponent of any constitutional amendment that limits the Supreme Court’s authority to issue remedial orders or fully adjudicate cases that come before it.  See http://bit.ly/28JkzPf.

In the end, the Senate members recommended that the Senate Ways and Means Committee and House Appropriations Committee review the testimony and minutes of the Joint Meeting. The Senate members also recommended that a constitutional amendment limiting the court’s authority to close schools be studied during the Veto Session. There is a high probability that this amendment will be introduced when the Special Session opens on Thursday. See http://bit.ly/28JbkgX.

The crux of the meeting was to find a way to deal with the Supreme Court’s order on equity. Committee members were of three different mindsets on how to best resolve the issue. One group wanted to simply pay the $38.7 million. The group proposed the extraordinary needs fund and the postponing of a $25 million road project as the source of funding, but the governor was not too keen on the idea. Another group wanted to shift money around between school districts until “equity” was reached. The last group wanted to do nothing and let the deadline pass.

See http://bit.ly/28JiA9n, http://bit.ly/28IqYdk and http://bit.ly/28J0CGq.

Sen. Greg Smith went as far as discussing the original Kansas Constitution called the Wyandotte Constitution to point to the first school finance formula. Sen. Smith used the Wyandotte Constitution to define “equity;” it was an interesting history lesson, but not many committee members took it as a true recommendation. See http://bit.ly/28J1ln6.

Rep. John Rubin is a staunch opponent of adding more money and he would like to see school funding cut. Rep. Rubin, who is not seeking reelection, was an opponent to all recommendations and he indicated he will introduce a constitutional amendment to limit school funding to 45 percent of state budget. See http://bit.ly/28JisIY.

Legislators understand that the issue needs to be resolved and quickly, the concern is how to comply with the court order. Many Johnson County legislators are concerned that shifting money around will be a net loss for their district. Johnson County would like to see a “hold harmless” provision in any school finance plan. However, the Kansas Supreme Court had specific issues with this fix. Conservative lawmakers oppose adding new money to the pot, and the democrats support moving money around and fund transfers. See http://bit.ly/28J76at and http://bit.ly/28Jjly4.

It is hard to say what proposal has the upper hand, but something needs to get done—and soon. June 30 is only 10 days away.

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Special Session 2016

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, June 14, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

Last week Governor Brownback signed a proclamation calling for a Special Legislative Session to resolve the school finance equity issue. The Special Session will open on June 23 at 10 a.m.

See http://abcn.ws/1VMWVBy; See also http://bit.ly/1PJQ4Yh and http://bit.ly/28wYOHH

The KBA urges members of the joint committee to uphold the separation of powers and allow each branch of government to exercise their responsibilities accordingly.

As legislators work to craft a solution, a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary committees will consider ways to address the Kansas Supreme Court’s proposed remedy of closing schools should the legislature fail to reach a constitutional solution. Sen. Jeff King (R-Independence) and Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene) have called the joint meeting. See http://apne.ws/1XRQNde and http://bit.ly/1ZJuK5A.

The joint meeting will begin on Thursday, June 16 and extend until Friday, June 17. The agenda calls for a school finance lawsuit update, committee discussion on the supreme court ruling and public comments.

Here is a link to members of the joint meeting

In a statement made on June 10, 2016, Sen. King argues that nothing done by the Kansas Legislature is as hard or as important as school finance. Sen. King argues that the Kansas Supreme Court wants to close schools over 1 percent of school funding. Sen. King’s goal is to draft and pass a constitutional amendment banning all branches of government from closing K-12 schools. Read full statement here: http://bit.ly/1tlZQpr

While the exact wording of the proposal is not available, the Kansas Bar Association is concerned that the concept of limiting the court’s authority in this manner is unconstitutional. To constrain the court’s authority to set appropriate remedies is a violation of the separation of powers doctrine.  As Kansas children learn in grade school, our government is based on three co-equal branches of government. The legislative branch makes the laws, the executive branch enforces those laws and the judicial branch interprets those laws. It is important to allow all branches of government the power to execute their constitutional duties as outlined. To impose a limitation on a co-equal branch of government places the process in question. The KBA urges members of the joint committee to uphold the separation of powers and allow each branch of government to exercise their responsibilities accordingly.

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Sine Die

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, June 7, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

The Kansas Legislature ended the 2016 legislative session June 1. Sine Die is normally a formality but this year both chambers spent time approving a tax bill vetoed by Governor Brownback, voted on a transgender bathroom resolution and discussed possible solutions to the school finance decision which found their previous equity fix unconstitutional.

The tax bill is now law after both chambers, by near unanimous votes, overturned the governor’s veto.  The tax bill now allows plaintiffs to have a de novo review of their cases at the district court level. At first glance this seems a simple solution but the back story deals with the sale of a large pizza company and a tax bill near $43 million. See; http://bit.ly/1sqIXd6

The Kansas Senate also approved a resolution condemning the federal government’s order to public schools on transgender student’s bathroom usage. The Kansas Attorney General will challenge the law in court.

The Kansas Senate also approved a resolution condemning the federal government’s order to public schools on transgender student’s bathroom usage. The Kansas Attorney General will challenge the law in court. The federal edict requires schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom of the gender they identify with, not their gender at birth. See; http://abcn.ws/1spFICI

Neither chamber chose to solve the school finance issue on the last day of the session. The Kansas Senate debated the idea in caucus with a number of potential solutions but in the end leadership decided not to press the issue. The mood was tense and many legislators are upset with the court for threatening to shutdown schools and some want to defy the court’s ruling.

For his part, the Governor stated that he “will work with the Attorney General and Legislative leadership to respond aggressively and appropriately to any action taken by the Kansas Supreme Court to close schools”. See; http://bit.ly/1TY8lQt; See also, http://bit.ly/1XkvC3b; and http://bit.ly/1Y4tJGI

The last big piece of the day was the failure to meet monthly revenue projections for the 10th time in 12 tries. Revenues are down $74.5 million for the month of May. This comes after the Consensus Estimating Group reduced these estimates significantly in April. This also comes on the heels of Governor Brownback cutting state budgets, higher education and transferring funds to have an ending balance of $21 million on June 30. The ending balance is now a deficit reaching $55 million, maybe more should June number trend downwards as well. 

With the legislative session over, balancing the budget will fall to the governor. The most likely course of action would be to delay payments to K12 schools till after June 30th or cutting funds from various state programs like children’s funding, extraordinary need fund for K12 and KDOT. See, http://bit.ly/1O6F0UP; See also, http://bit.ly/1UjngBE; and http://bit.ly/1TRuzqe; and http://bit.ly/1RQHTUk.

To sum up, the state is now $55 million in the red, the legislature passed a tax bill that has the potential for a $43 million tax refund and the estimate to provide school equity is $38 million. The outlook is uninspiring.

June 1 also marked the deadline to file for legislative elections or withdraw from the election. A number of legislators decided this would be their last term, retiring on the last day of the session. Some prominent names include, Speaker Ray Merrick, Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, Rep. Mark Kahrs, Rep. Tom Moxley, Senate Vice President Jeff King, Sen. Steve Abrams and Sen. Mitch Holmes.

If interested you can find those still in the race at the Kansas Secretary of State’s website http://www.kssos.org/elections/elections_upcoming_candidate_display.asp.

Revenue

http://hrld.us/285Kaa6 - Miami Hearld

Tags:  Sine Die 

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Sine Die

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

The Kansas Legislature will officially close shop on June 1, sine die. Normally this is a simple formality run by a skeleton crew of legislators and staff. However, this year there may be some significant work done relating to transgender individuals and public restrooms. Several conservative lawmakers would like to pass a resolution on the last day of the session.  The matter of transgender individuals’ access to public restrooms that match their gender identify was discussed early this year, but it failed to move through the legislative process. See: http://bit.ly/245REFb.

In May, the governor did sign a few pieces of legislation that will affect the practice of law in Kansas.  For instance, Gov. Brownback approved of Sen Sub for HB 2112 that amends and recodifies the Kansas Business Combinations with Interested Shareholders Act, defining key terms and prohibiting corporations from engaging in any business combination with any interested stockholder for three years following the time such stockholder became an interested stockholder, and makes other updates to the entire code.

The governor also signed off on House Sub for SB 128 which requires applicants for admission to practice law to provide the following information: name, place of residence, date of birth, sex, and the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number or the person’s full driver’s license or non-driver identification card number. A pending applicant must notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court (Clerk) in writing of any change in name or address within ten days of such change. The bill requires any person whose application is pending as of the effective date of the bill to provide the correct information required above to the Clerk within 60 days of the effective date of the bill, and requires the Clerk to send notice of this requirement within 30 days of the effective date.  This roster of licensed attorneys will be used to receive and cast ballots for lawyer members of the supreme court nominating commission.  These elections will be administered by the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office.

To view all the other bills approved and set to become law on July 1, please visit the following links:

http://www.kslegresearch.org/... 2016-preliminary-summary.pdf

http://www.kslegresearch.org/... 2016-preliminary-summary-supp-I.pdf

http://www.kslegresearch.org/... 2016-preliminary-summary-supp-II.pdf

After sine die, the legislature will close the lawmaking portion of the year and jump immediately into the election season.  We have already seen a number of ads and postcards aimed at the Kansas Supreme Court, and the Kansas GOP passed a resolution to non-retain four justices (Nuss, Luckert, Biles and Beier).  The supreme court seats up for retention election are held by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, Justice Marla Luckert, Justice Carol Beier, Justice Daniel Biles and Justice Caleb Stegall. If retained, a justice serves for six years prior to the next retention election. Judges Steve Leben, Joseph Pierron, David E. Bruns, G. Gordon Atcheson, Karen Arnold-Burger and Kathryn Gardner hold the appeals court seats up for retention election in 2016. If retained, an appeals court judge serves for four years prior to the next retention election. Outside of the presidential race, the retention election vote looks to be the most intriguing of the lot.

However, all 165 Kansas legislative seats are up for election and with the large amount of retirements from office or individuals not seeking re-election we could see a swing towards the political center. The candidate list has grown significantly this last few weeks. 

Here is an updated list for the Kansas Secretary of State’s website. http://www.kssos.org/elections/elections_upcoming_candidate_display.asp

Interestingly, Kansas voter turnout over the last four presidential election cycles runs nearly 16 percent higher (58.25%) than in the previous four non-presidential election years (42.9%). The last day to register to vote for the Kansas State Primary Election is July 12, 2016.  The last day to vote in the general election is October 18, 2016.

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Adjournment!

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, May 3, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

Early Monday morning the Kansas Legislature closed shop and headed home. The session lasted a mere 73 days, tied for the 4th shortest in history. However, add that to the 110 day record session from 2015 and the two-year running total is three days more than expected.

The legislature closed out the year by voting on the state budget (Sub for SB 249) which transfers heavily from KDOT, delays payments to KPERS and makes another round of cuts to higher education. The approved budget gives the governor more authority to handle shortfalls with further cuts with the exception of K-12.

See; http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2016/may/02/lawmakers-end-session-after-narrowly-passing-budge/;

See also; http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article75256752.html

and; http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/the-buzz/article75097932.html

In total the budget provides for $480 million in cuts by the executive, transfer of $115 million from KDOT and delaying $100 million from KPERS. All of this came after the House failed to close the 2012 LLC loophole and the Senate decided against the issue in committee.

For the KBA’s part the legislature passed its Kansas General Corporate Code update (Senate Sub for HB 2112) mere hours before the budget debate began. The corporate code update would have been a casualty of a shorter veto session, however, the Judiciary Conference Committee found time when issues surrounding a health bill sprung up. Many thanks to Judiciary Conference Committee for getting this important piece of legislation across the finish line.  Special thanks to Chairman King, Chairman Barker, Rep. Carmichael, Rep. Bruchman and Rep. Macheers.  The bill now heads to the governor for approval.

Another bill approved during veto session was a conference committee report House Sub for SB 128.  The base bill, SB 128 amends the process for filling district court judge vacancies expanding the number of nominees sent to the governor from no less than three to no more than five. In addition, when the local district judicial nominating commission stops accepting nominations, the bill requires the chairperson to make the name of each person whose nomination is accepted available to the public no less than 10 days prior to submitting to the governor.

Additionally, House sub for SB 128 included some portions of SB 197.  SB 197 would amend and create law related to the roster of Kansas attorneys, selection of lawyer members of judicial district nominating commissions, and the applicability of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) and Kansas Open Records Act (KORA).

The Judicial Branch had its budget worked on during veto session with the passage of House sub for SB 255. This bill creates new law while reviving previously repealed statutes related to Kansas court docket fees as a result of the Solomon court case. In essence, House sub for SB 255 returns the judicial budget to the position it held immediately prior to the Solomon ruling. This includes all docket fee authority, dispositive motion fees, and surcharge limits.  Everything would be put back into place except for the non-severability clause and the provisions the Solomon case found unconstitutional.

The remaining judicial budget fixes (SB 440 and SB 454) introduced by Sen. Jeff King will be referred to the Kansas Judicial Council for further study or be reviewed in an interim committee. This determination will take place at a later date.

The official close of the session, also called Sine Die, is scheduled for 10 a.m. on June 1. This is purely ceremonial and no business is on the agenda.  It also marks the opening of campaign contributions season. Look for those in your mailbox.

It should be noted that the Kansas Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the school finance equity legislation passed earlier this spring.  Should that law be found unconstitutional, the legislature may be called back for a special session. It really all depends on how the court rules.

In the meantime, please take a look at the Kansas Legislative website for a summary of bills that have passed and been signed into law. 

Summary of Legislation:

http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/SummaryofLegislation/PreliminarySummaries/2016-preliminary-summary.pdf

http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/SummaryofLegislation/PreliminarySummaries/2016-preliminary-summary-supp-I.pdf

Another summary is due in June.

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Veto Session Kicks Off

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, April 26, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

Legislators are starting to trickle in to Topeka to wrap up the 2016 legislative session.  The main goal is to figure out how to balance the state budget after a poor Consensus Revenue Estimate. The new forecast has the state $347 million below previous estimates.  The governor has proposed three ideas on closing the gap, but none include raising revenue. The main contributors for closing the gap would be shifting money from KDOT and KPERS. All three proposals call for a 3 percent, or $17 million, cut to higher education, a transfer of $185 million from KDOT and the possibility of delaying a KPERS payment. It should be noted that this is not tied to the governor’s authority to borrow up to $100 million from KPERS with repayment this fall with 8 percent interest.

One option would also allow the state to sell off future tobacco payments. This idea was roundly criticized by advocates for children.

One option would also allow the state to sell off future tobacco payments. This idea was roundly criticized by advocates for children. Another option would be an across-the-board cut for all state agencies, K-12 education and Medicaid. See; http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2016/apr/20/new-kansas-revenue-forecast-expected-spur-budget-c/

Adding to the pressure is yesterday’s announcement by Standard & Poor that Kansas has been put on a credit watch with the intent to lower the state’s credit rating based on poor revenue numbers. See; http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article73789707.html

The idea of closing the LLC loophole has gained some momentum over the break, but the governor is still not ready to support the action. How members of the legislature (who are up for re-election) and the governor (who is not) broker a compromise remains to be seen.

The legislature has competed some of its work by passing several bills prior to the break. Here is a summary put out by the Kansas Legislative Research Department. One more summary will be released after the session closes.

http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/SummaryofLegislation/PreliminarySummaries/2016-preliminary-summary.pdf

http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/SummaryofLegislation/PreliminarySummaries/2016-preliminary-summary-supp-I.pdf

To break up the routine committee meeting process, the Kansas Bar Association is hosting a CLE at the Capitol again this year. This CLE is free to any lawyer-legislator. Special thanks to the Kansas Disciplinary Officer for presenting this CLE. The CLE will take place at noon on May 4.

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Veto Session Outlook

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, April 5, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

The Kansas legislature will resume its work on Wednesday, April 27. There is hallway talk that the session could last a few days, unlike last year’s record-breaking occurrence. During veto session, leadership determines when the session will come to an end; this could last from a few days to several weeks. This year, with a busy first week back, it is not unreasonable to believe the session will last more than a week.

The main issue is how poorly the April Consensus Revenue Estimates tend to come back. If revenue falls just short—like in March ($1.6 million under)—then things will move quickly. But if things get worse and numbers run similar to February ($54 million under), we may be in for a longer haul. News reports have indicated the governor has several options he could use to shore up the state budget. Sweeping from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is always a consideration, and using his newly created authority to borrow from The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) dollars is another. The governor could also sell off future tobacco payments to stabilize the budget, but that seems unlikely.

The Kansas Supreme Court’s budget is in a very different position. After discussions with OJA and KDJA representatives, the judicial branch should be able to maintain its current level of service without interruptions if the major portions of the FY 15 budget remain in place. However, the judicial branch could be impacted if revenues plunge, forcing the governor to make across-the-board cuts to deal with any budget shortfall.

Forgoing that scenario, focus is on the future of the judicial branch. Sen. King introduced two bills dealing with this issue: The first is SB 440 that appears to clarify the role the Kansas Supreme Court plays in the judicial branch. The other bill, SB 454 deals with docket fees and gives authority to the Kansas Supreme Court to set rates. Both bills have been passed by the Kansas Senate.

SB 440

Supreme court’s authority of the judicial branch

SB 454

Docket fees

The Kansas House introduced their own fix to the Solomon decision and it is quite simple. Under their proposal, the judicial budget would return the court to the position it held immediately prior to the Solomon ruling. This would include all docket fee authority, dispositive motion fees, and surcharge limits. Everything would be put back into place except for the non-severability clause and the provisions the Solomon case found unconstitutional. The bill, House Sub for SB 255, cleared the Kansas House 122-0. The faith of the bill will be determined by the Judicial Conference Committee and its 6 members.

OJA also recommended raises for judges and staff, along with funds to fill the 80 full-time positions and other positions recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission. Unfortunately, the legislature does not have the funds to make these recommendations law. Moreover, during a hearing on the topic, many found raises for judges to be ludicrous, and they would be more inclined to increase salaries for staff. The bill did not make it out of committee.

During Veto Session conference committee negotiated bills that have passed both chambers, but in different forms. These bills are considered “bills in conference”. The conference committee also discussed bills that have only passed one chamber. These bills are referred to as “conferenceable” bills. The committee can bundle bills that satisfy a subject matter test including those bills only passed by one chamber. For our purposes, many issues will be discussed in the Judiciary Conference Committee (JCC). The JCC consist of six members, the chair, vice-chair and ranking minority members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. The Senate members are Sen. Jeff King (chair), Sen. Greg Smith (vice-chair) and Se. David Haley (ranking minority). The House is represented by Rep. John Barker (chair), Rep. Charles Macheers (vice-chair) and Rep. John Carmichael (ranking minority).

Below are a few bills that are being considered in the JCC.

House Sub for SB 128

Increasing the number of district court judge nominees sent to the governor by district judicial nominating commissions

A bill expanding the number of nominees from no less than three to no more than five has passed the Kansas House and been discussed in conference committee. This bill, House sub for SB 128, would amend the process for filling district court judge vacancies. Specifically, when the district judicial nominating commission (commission) stops accepting nominations, the bill would require the chairperson to make the name of each person whose nomination is accepted available to the public no less than ten days prior to submitting the nominees’ names to the governor.

There is a strong possibility that House sub for SB 128 will be bundled with SB 197. SB 197 would amend and create law related to the roster of Kansas attorneys, the selection of the chairperson and lawyer members of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, selection of lawyer members of judicial district nominating commissions, and the applicability of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) and Kansas Open Records Act (KORA). The KBA opposes this bill.

The KBA continues to work for passage of HB 2713 dealing with the Kansas General Corporate Code. HB 2713 has passed one chamber and is a conferenceable bill. The KBA hopes to find an avenue for passed through the conference committee process.

The Kansas Legislative Research Department has complied a listing of those bills that have already passed the legislature and been signed into law by the governor. Those new laws can be found here: http://bit.ly/22YGqDQ.

Finally, the KBA will host a CLE at the Capitol on May 4 beginning at noon. All lawyer/legislators are welcomed to attend this free hour of Ethics CLE. The KBA would like to thank the Kansas Disciplinary Office for agreeing to present at this year’s CLE.

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First Adjournment

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

The Kansas Legislature concluded the regular session last Thursday and emptied the Capitol. First Adjournment marks the end of the normal stuff. The deadline was moved up nearly a week to “bank” those extra days for the Veto Session. Once again, the legislature has pushed off budget issues ‘til after the April Consensus Revenue Estimates come back in late April. However, the numbers for March will be out this Friday, and many suspect a lot of red.

In the past, the last day of the regular session has been a hurried affair where a few odds and ends made some noise, but nothing very spectacular. However, the end of this regular session did not go quietly as Rep. Tom Burroughs got into a heated exchange on the House floor while debating the school finance equity fix. Rep. Burroughs did apologize for his lack of decorum, but the room was still a little charged. The bill still passed out on a motion to concur 93-31 as moderates joined with leadership to end the regular session.

See: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article67978492.html – Wichita Eagle;

http://cjonline.com/news/2016-03-24/legislature-passes-school-finance-equity-plan-slammed-topeka-schools – Topeka Capital Journal;

http://bit.ly/1REM3SC – Garden City Telegram

As for judiciary bills, the House and Senate met three times last week to begin the process of bundling like-minded bills in conference. The big issues include a potential combination of the judicial fee bill, House sub for SB 255 and SB 440 allowing the Supreme Court more authority over the judicial branch. The Senate feels strongly that SB 440 should be added to comply with the Solomon decision and rebuild the wall of separation of powers between the branches.  The House feels that their answer to the Solomon decision, putting things back the way there were—except for the non-severability clause and other unconstitutional provisions—is the easiest fix. This is one of handful of issues the Judicial Conference Committee needs to resolve.

The other big court issue deals with House Sub for SB 128 increasing the number of district court nominees from no less than three to no more than five.  Here the Senate wants to add SB 197 which allows the Secretary of State to run the elections for members of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. It also allows the governor more oversight of that commission. The KBA opposed this bill last session.

For those who thought the end of the regular session might mean a reprieve from discussions of retention elections, I give you the latest opinion column from the Wichita Eagle, http://www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article68699967.html. Also keep in mind that SB 439, impeaching judges and justices, is in conference committee. The KBA will closely monitor its progress.

The Judiciary Conference Committee will also bundle three bills dealing with open records. The committee plans to add SB 98, SB 415 (including a controversial gaming component that caused a bit of dust up in the House) and SB 361 into Sub for SB 22.  The committee also plans to create a children and minors bundle.

The KBA continues its work with members from the House to find a way forward for HB 2713. The Kansas House has a very strong position for passing HB 2713, corporate code update.

The Veto Session begins on April 27.  Both chambers have several important conference committee reports to negotiate, especially the property tax lid. The judiciary conference committee will meet on April 27 to continue its negotiations.

For those looking for bills passed and already signed into law, the Kansas Legislative Research Department put out its first Legislative Summary this week. http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/SummaryofLegislation/PreliminarySummaries/2016-preliminary-summary.pdf

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Politics Coming to a Head

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, March 15, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

The Kansas Legislature took some interesting turns this week as the session approaches Drop Dead day. The Senate tried to override the governor’s veto of the Docking building contract, but relented on the fears of another downgrade in the state’s bond rating. Both chambers have come up with school finance proposals that attempt to satisfy the court’s ruling, and House democrats were able to send an anti-refugee bill back to committee.

For issues concerning the courts, the most public issue was the effort to expand the grounds for which justices can be impeached.  That bill, SB 439, was passed out of committee yesterday on a 7-4 vote. Senators King, Haley, Pettey and McGinn all voted no. The bill was amended to include the executive branch.  Next stop is the Senate floor where it is expected to pass since 18 senators are co-sponsors of the bill.

However, public scrutiny of this issue has been wide spread.

Kansas Conservatives Advance Bill on Impeachment of Judges – AP News;

Judge impeachment bill moves to Kansas Senate floor – Wichita Business Journal;

Bill would allow impeachment of Kansas Supreme Court justices – LJWorld.com;

Frustrated Kansas GOP lawmakers weigh move to impeach top judges – KS Star

The most pointed support for SB 439 came from Sen. Forrest Knox who called the Kansas Supreme Court members kings and that their actions should have political consequences.

Another interesting issue deals with the Supreme Court authority of the judicial branch. As previously reported, Sen. King introduced two bills that would fix the judicial branch budget after the Solomon case struck down laws passed in 2014 and 2015.  This fix was in the form of SB 440 and SB 454. SB 440 rebuilds the wall between the courts and the legislature by providing the Kansas Supreme Court with authority over the judicial branch.  SB 440 passed the Senate on Feb. 23 with a 28-9 vote. However, SB 454 that provides key funding provisions including docket fee authority has been passed over in the Senate and has still not been debated. 

As such, the House Judiciary Committee took it upon themselves to fix the judicial budget by returning the court to the position it held immediately prior to the Solomon ruling. This would include all docket fee authority, dispositive motion fees, and surcharge limits.  Everything would be put back into place except for the non-severability clause and the provisions the Solomon case found unconstitutional. The new bill will be House Sub for SB 255 and it should be out early next week.

The KBA also provided neutral testimony on SB 393 dealing with domestic violence and child custody/parenting time. The bill was opposed by several judges, one of which chairs the Family Law Advisory Committee for the Kansas Judicial Council. 

The Senate also introduced SB 503 this week which mandates the Department of Corrections develop rules and regulations to incentivize community corrections and court service officers to consolidate operations.  This proposal comes from the A&M efficiency study.  The bill was referred to Senate Corrections, but is unlikely to get a hearing.

The Kansas House passed two probate bills this week: SB 319 dealing with venue and SB 321 dealing with protective wills. The KBA originally introduced SB 321 in 2015. The KBA was also able to get the UCC Article 9 amendments passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Finally, HB 2713 update to the general corporate code is up for hearing on Wednesday, March 16.

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Turnaround Action

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, March 8, 2016

About the Author


Joseph N. Molina III
Legislative Services Director

KansasBarLeg

Last week was a short week for legislators as they returned from First Adjournment break to begin the second half of the session.  Legislators began serious consideration of issues on Thursday with both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in action.

The bulk of the work came from the Senate Judiciary Committee as they heard four bills on Thursday which included:

SB 439

Grounds for impeachment of judges and justices

SB 467

Prohibiting certain lawyers from advertising in Kansas

Sub HB 2062

Uniform Commercial Code Article 9

 

SB 439 dealing with impeachment of justices and judges was the most contentious of issues.  Proponents of the bill included Sen. Greg Smith (Vice-Chair of Senate Judiciary) and Sen. Mitch Holmes (R-St. John). I have attached their testimony.  The main crux of the debate was whether SB 439 expanded the grounds for impeachment.  Proponents argued that the bill merely defined the grounds for impeachment while opponents argued that the bill was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers doctrine.

Opponents of the bill included the KBA, Pedro Irigonegaray, Kansas Association for Justice (KSAJ), Kansas Association of Defense Council (KADC) and the Kansas District Judges Association. 

There appears to be enough support from the committee to recommend SB 439 favorably. The question now becomes whether the Senate as a whole wants to deal with another controversial issue.

SB 467 is an interesting bill dealing with non-Kansas licensed lawyers advertising in Kansas.  The bill was supported by Mark Hutton of the Hutton & Hutton LLC out of Wichita.  The main issue for Hutton was the protection of consumers who are unaware they maybe dealing with an attorney not licensed in Kansas. 

Opponents of SB 467 believe the bill violated the First Amendment and that proper remedies exist within the Kansas Supreme Court.

Senate Sub of HB 2062 is a carryover bill from last session.  This bill is highly technical and concerns electronic fund transfers governed by the UCC Article 9.  The KBA, along with the Kansas Bankers, introduced the bill and worked for its passage.  We are confident that the bill will be recommended favorably by the committee and pass the Senate.  At that point it will go to the governor’s desk for approval.

The House Judiciary heard only one bill this week but it was an important bill dealing with salary adjustments for judges and non-judicial staff.  Thirteen organizations testified in support of the bill, including the KBA.  The committee was very critical of raises for judges who currently make in excess of $100,000 (with an exception for magistrate judges) but were more likely to support non-judicial staff increases.

However, with the current fiscal outlook for the state ($53 million below expectation for February) it is highly unlikely that anything gets done this session.  On the positive side, the conversation has begun and interested parties can work toward a resolution once the financial issue is resolved.

HB 2704

Judicial Branch Salaries of judges and justices, appropriations for FY 17

 

The KBA’s Corporation Code update has finally been completed and is ready for hearing.  The bill is tentatively set for hearing on Thursday, March 17 at 3:30 p.m.  Bill Matthews and company will testify on behalf of the KBA.

HB 2713

Amending the Kansas General Corp Code

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