The Kansas Legislature will reach First Adjournment today, April 5th. This deadline effectively kills any bill not already passed by at least one chamber. Of course, there are exceptions, and those are very similar to those used after Turnaround (House Appropriations, Senate Ways & Means, Tax etc.). The Legislature will return on May 1st for Veto Session.
• Judicial Branch Budget
The Kansas Judicial Branch has asked for budget enhancements totaling $20.1 Million. These enhancements include judicial raises ($7.8 million); nonjudicial raises ($10.3 million), and 7 new judges/staff with 20 unfunded positions ($2.0 million)
House Appropriations would like to phase in the increases over several years. The phase-in would begin in FY 2020 and last three years for staff and five years for judges.
Senate Ways & Means will discuss judicial pay during Veto Session.
The Judicial Branch Budget can be found on page 5 of the bill explainer for House Sub for SB 25. This bill is in conference and being negotiated.
1. SB 25 Appropriations for FY 2019/2020/2021 and 2022 for various state agencies
The Judicial Branch also gained approval for its docket fee extension bill. That bill, SB 20, has passed both chambers (35-5 in the Senate/118-6 in the House), but the KS House amended the bill to include HB 2039, recognizing Tribal Court Judgments.
SB 20 accounts for $9 million dollars of the judicial branch budget. It has been sent to conference committee to debate the differences. The Senate appointed Sen. Wilborn, Sen. Miller and Sen. Rucker. The House should appoint, Rep. Patton, Rep. Carmichael and Rep. Ralph.
2. SB 20 Extending the Judicial Branch Surcharge
The Judicial Branch was also able to get approval for HB 2211. This bill allows judges to waive driver’s license reinstatement fees should the defendant qualify due to manifest hardship. The hope is this program will provide an incentive those with traffic fines to apply for the waiver and pay a percentage of the fine minus penalties. The Judicial Branch believes this will end with a net positive impact on the judicial branch budget.
3. HB 2211 Allowing judges to waive or reduce driver license reinstatement fees
- Merit Selection Proposals
For most of the session, merit selection was not an issue. However, with the nomination and subsequent withdrawal of Judge Jeffry Jack for the Kansas Court of Appeals, things have changed. The first proposal is similar to previous judicial selection constitutional amendments. This bill would eliminate the merit selection process and move towards a “governor nominate/senate confirm model.” This proposal was introduced by Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover).
1. SCR 1610 Constitutional amendment revising article 3, relating to the judiciary; allowing the governor to appoint supreme court justices and court of appeals judges, subject to senate confirmation; abolishing the supreme court nominating commission.
Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene) introduced a constitutional amendment in the House that would require the Supreme Court to issue opinions within a year of hearing the case.
2. HCR 5010 Constitutional amendment to require the Kansas supreme court to issue decisions within one year of final arguments
Neither of these proposals have been scheduled for hearings
Sen. Dennis Pyle (R-Hiawatha) introduced a resolution calling for the resignation of Judge Jack. That resolution has no legal effect but does keep the issue alive. The Senate did not take up the issue.
3. SR 1731 Calling for the immediate resignation of District Court Judge Jeffry Jack of the 11th Judicial District
The Kansas Legislature has less than a week to complete its work. A state budget and a school finance plan have yet to be negotiated. The House passed some school finance policy proposals but failed to pass a funding plan. The Senate passed a funding plan. How this shakes out will be interesting to see. Both chambers must also finalize a budget this week. The budget conference committee has already met but just to deal with some less controversial issues.