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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 

Gannon

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Legislators returned to what was supposed to be a short uneventful week following turnaround. However, the Kansas Supreme Court decided to release the much-anticipated Gannon v. State of Kansas school finance case. The entire 110-page opinion can be found online at http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2014/20140307/109335.pdf.

 

The Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that had a bit of everything for everyone. The bullet point version found that the Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the state failed to meet its duty to provide equity in public education as required by the constitution. The Court determined that the state has created "unreasonable, wealth-based disparities” by failing to fund Capital Outlay and the Local Option Budget (LOB). The Supreme Court recommended that the lower court provide the legislature with the opportunity to address the inequities and request action by July 1, 2014. Those changes could come in the form of fully funding, partially funding, or making changes to the current statutes. To fully fund LOB and Capital Outlay the legislature would have to come up with roughly $139 million.

 

The really big issue dealing with suitability was remanded to the three-judge panel so they may apply the "Rose Standard” and return a finding based on that process. The Supreme Court found that a cost based focus was too narrow.

 

For more information on this issue and some local reactions, including the KBA response, please see the following:

The other really big news was the Kansas Senate passing the Judicial Branch Omnibus bill, Senate Sub. for HB 2338. This bill combines a number of judicial branch issues together and passed them out of the Senate in one afternoon. The procedural move was a little unorthodox as it combined appropriations and substantive amendments into one bill. This is usually an unconstitutional two subject problem but it was glossed over in the Senate. A number of House members were upset as this omnibus bill will bypass the normal appropriation committees in the House and head straight to the House floor for a vote to concur or nonconcur. How the House handles this omnibus bill remains to be seen but we can expect higher scrutiny of the judicial branch budget on the House side.

 

Next week we have a full slate in both chambers as First Adjournment is right around the corner. The KBA has a hearing on HB 2398 dealing with the Kansas LLC Act on Wednesday in the Senate. We continue to wait on the medical malpractice bill, SB 311 to be set for hearing in the House. It should be noted that SB 311 was referred to the Committee on Commerce, which has no sitting lawyers.

Tags:  Gannon  House of Representatives  Senate  Supreme Court 

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Both Chambers Fully Engaged

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, February 25, 2014
With bill introductions left to exempt committees and hearings winding down, both chambers are working through a deluge of bills to avoid the drop-dead date of turnaround. All bills that fail to make it out by Friday, February 28 are dead. It is also important to note that this is an even numbered year so no bills will be "held over” to 2015. All bills that miss the cut off will need to be reintroduced next January.

 

There has been some hallway talk about a truncated session. Rep. Davis called for a 70-day session to avoid the many embarrassing bills that surfaced the past few weeks. This does not seem to be a viable option since Speaker Merrick has refocused on economics and has some serious work left to do. See http://www.kansas.com/2014/02/21/3303060/democratic-leader-calls-for-ending.html.

 

With the idea of a short session behind us there remain a number of big issues looming. Gannon comes to mind, but there is still no timetable for its release. The Capitol crowd gets a little antsier each passing week, and some are of the opinion we could be waiting till August. How this plays out remains to be seen.

 

Both of the KBA’s bills were debated on the House Floor this week. Rep. Bruchman carried HB 2398, concerning KS LLC Act, and Rep. Carmichael carried HB 2444, spend thrift trust. I am happy to report that both were passed on final action, 120-1 and 121-0, respectively. We will now work with the Senate to schedule hearings on both bills.

 

In addition, the KBA provided testimony is opposition to SB 364, allowing the chief judge more discretion in personnel matters. This bill was coupled with SB 365, allowing the district judges to elect the chief judge. Both bills may be worked in the coming days. The Kansas District Judges Association is opposed to both issues. You can find testimony at http://www.ksbar.org/?judicialservices. The Supreme Court is also a little concerned about SB 364 as described in this article from Topeka Capital-Journal. Chief Justice opposes bill to diffuse budget authority, http://cjonline.com/news/2014-02-17/chief-justice-opposes-bill-diffuse-budget-authority.

 

The KBA provided testimony to oppose HB 2650, benefit corporations. This bill was introduced by a national group called BLABS. The KBA has a subcommittee discussing a revision of the General Corporation Code. It would be preferable to weave this new concept into the revised code rather than have a standalone statute that may not fit. Testimony on HB 2650 will be online this coming week.

Quick Take

This past week was quite the tumultuous affair for some Kansas legislators. A number continue to feel the wrath of voting for HB 2453, the Religious Freedom Act, while one Kansas House Democrat caught significant heat for the spanking bill, HB 2699. Both of these bills helped Kansas make "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Local newspapers also chimed in on both of these fiascos.

For spanking news:

It should also be noted that the morass of bills aimed at domestic relation issues have failed to move forward in the legislative process. The KBA testified against a number of these bills listed below, all of which should die by Friday. These bills are as follows:

  • SB 302, Rending surrogate parenting contracts unenforceable and creating an unclassified misdemeanor
  • HB 2450, Change in terminology; "best interests of the child" to "least detrimental alternative for the child
  • HB 2462, Domestic relations; child custody. residency and parenting plans; child support
  • HB 2558, Domestic relations; prohibition of case management process
  • HB 2604, Domestic relations, divorce, division of property, maintenance
Looking forward, the KBA supported HB 2568, which was introduced by the Kansas Judicial Council. Several years back the Judicial Council did a reorganization of all the domestic laws by combining three chapters into one. HB 2568 is a continuation of the project. The KBA supported the initial reorganization and all of the clean-up efforts introduced by the Family Law Advisory Council.

 

This last week before turnaround is going to be very busy with 30 to 40 bills working their way through the process. Those on the fence will look to exempt committees for a little "blessing” but the Speaker has indicated he will narrow his focus to keep the train on the tracks the remainder of the session. The Senate side could work less than 10 days after turnaround before adjourning. How those days are calculated is the big questions. Nevertheless, the Senate appears to be in a better position as it reaches the first significant deadline of the 2014 session.

Tags:  Daily Show  Gannon  House  Kansas Judicial Council  Senate  Supreme Court 

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School Finance and the Kansas Supreme Court

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This past week there have been a number of news articles surrounding the school finance case, Gannon v. State. This case deals with the appropriate amount of money need to provide a suitable education to Kansas kids. It is anticipated that the Kansas Supreme Court will be issuing its ruling in the next month or so. This ruling could require the state of Kansas to appropriate more funds for K-12 schools. The Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments on this case on October 8, 2013.

 

Several news articles have followed this case through the legal process. See Suzanne Perez Tobias, Kansas school-funding lawsuit hinging on what’s ‘suitable,’ The Wichita Eagle (Oct. 9, 2013), http://www.kansas.com/2012/06/02/2357937/kansas-school-funding-lawsuit.html; see also John Hanna, Kansas governor’s legacy clouded by school funding case, The Kansas City Star (Oct. 13, 2013), http://www.kansascity.com/2013/10/13/4550916/kansas-governors-legacy-clouded.html; and Dion Lefler, Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments in school funding case, The Wichita Eagle (Oct. 9, 2013), http://www.kansas.com/2013/10/08/3046855/2-kansas-justices-promise-on-school.html.

 

In each case the main thrust is what happens to the state budget if more money is needed to satisfy the Kansas Constitutional requirement to deliver a "suitable” education. There appears to be three distinct options. One is to simply appropriate the money and raise taxes. This option faces a very tough road during the 2014 session as the Kansas legislature recently passed a huge tax cut. To raise these funds by increasing taxes would undo a lot of that hard work. The second option is to ignore the ruling. This would place the three branches of government in a very uncomfortable position. The third option would be to change the Kansas Constitution so the legislature is in direct control of school appropriations. This idea was discussed earlier in 2013 but the votes were not there to put it on the statewide ballot.

 

In the meantime the Kansas Supreme Court has taken center stage for some very pointed criticism by Republican legislators. For instance, last week Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) stated that if the court rules later this year the same way it did in Montoy v. Kansas it would be "a killer decision.” "It would kill all potential funding increases for all government entities,” she said. "If the court does that, it is unaffordable and it is unrealistic. "So defying them is a possibility.” (Read more at http://www.kansas.com/2013/11/09/3106367/top-kansas-legislators-weigh-in.html#storylink=cpy)

 

From the same article, Rep. Gene Sullentrop (R-Wichita) also said that if the legislature is ordered to pay $400-$500 million, there would be a serious dilemma. He also believes that there is a "strong feeling that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction to appropriate money, and if there is a strong feeling that they are not looking at all sides fairly, then we are not apt to go along with them.” (Read more at http://www.kansas.com/2013/11/09/3106367/top-kansas-legislators-weigh-in.html#storylink=cpy)

 

This sentiment was reiterated by Sen. Wagle when she commented to the Wichita Business Journal that "If we do get that ruling down, what we’re going to do is focus on what is the role of the Supreme Court.” "Should they be interpreting law, should they be appropriating money?” Wagle said. "They aren’t elected, and we’re real concerned that when they do analyze how much money is appropriate for K-12 funding, they don’t get to hear all the other testimony that we hear from the other needs of the state, whether it be transportation, corrections, higher ed and all the other entities we fund. So it’ll be a very tough year if we’re at odds.” See John Stearns, Brownback: K-12 court ruling will color next legislative session, Wichita Business Journal (Nov. 7, 2013), http://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/blog/2013/11/brownback-k-12-court-ruling-will.html?page=all.

Quick Take

The Kansas Bar Association would like to thank all those involved in making the 7th Annual Fall Legislative Conference a success. Attendees were treated to a fabulous CLE on concealed carry, which was hosted by the KBA Bench & Bar Committee. Our speakers included KBA Bench and Bar Chair Teresa Watson, Chief Judge Dan Creitz, Assistant Kansas Attorney General C.W. Klebe, and Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson.

 

I would also like to thank our conference panelists: Rep. Steven Becker (R-Buhler), Rep. Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa), Rep. Jan Pauls (D-Hutchinson), Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee), and Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita). I greatly appreciate them taking time out to discuss the 2014 legislative session with us.

 

Finally, the Fall Legislative Conference would not be possible without our wonderful and generous sponsors. They include:

  • Alderson, Alderson, Weiler, Conklin, Burghart & Crow LLC
  • John Peterson & Bill Brady/Capitol Strategies
  • Kansas Bankers Association
  • Polsinelli PC
  • Whitney B. Damron P.A.
  • R.E. "Tuck" Duncan/Kansas Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association

At this point it is important to remember that two bills were introduced that would have a serious effect on the operation, composition, and jurisdiction of the Kansas Supreme Court during the waning days of the 2013 legislative session. Those bills:

  • HB 2415 which would reduce the mandatory retirement age from 75 years old to 65 years old for members of the Kansas Supreme Court and the Kansas Court of Appeals.
  • HB 2416 would split the Court of Appeals into two divisions. One devoted to only criminal appeals (five judges) and the other devoted to civil appeals (nine judges). In addition, this bill would limit the jurisdiction of the Kansas Supreme Court to those areas outlined by the Kansas Constitution.

The KBA Board of Governors has voted to oppose both of these bills.

 

It would not be a surprise if the criticisms of the Kansas Supreme Court continue throughout the winter and into the legislative session. Calls to alter the way Kansas Supreme Court justices are selected will most likely pick up steam, as will proposals to stifle the independence of the courts. Even now Kansas legislators are asking higher-education officials to lobby the Supreme Court in an effort to save higher education dollars. See Editorial: Court influence, Lawrence Journal-World (Nov. 7, 2013), http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/nov/07/editorial-court-influence/.

 

What other tactics are used to change public perception remains to be seen, but rest assured, we can expect a lot more.

Tags:  Gannon  Kansas Supreme Court  legislature  Montoy  school finance 

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Kansas Supreme Court in the News

Posted By Joseph N. Molina III, Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Kansas Supreme Court has made quite the news splash over the last five days. First off, the Supreme Court reversed a Kansas Department of Health and Environment decision granting the Holcomb power plant a license to build the coal-fired plant in southwest Kansas. The Court stated that KDHE needed to revisit federal clean air regulations and review the permit with those standards in mind. The case is Sierra Club v. Robert Moser, Secretary of Kansas Department of Health and Environment. See http://www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2013/20131004/105493.pdf; see also Kansas high court reverses Holcomb plant permit, http://m.cjonline.com/news/2013-10-04/kansas-high-court-reverses-holcomb-coal-plant-permit.

 

Many feel that this decision is another example of the Kansas Supreme Court being out of step with the public and legislative policy. Some have speculated that this will lead to a harder push to change how Supreme Court justices are selected.

 

The Supreme Court also heard oral arguments in the school finance case this morning. That case, Gannon v. State of Kansas, will decide if the legislature failed to provide for a suitable education for K-12 students. This case has been a major issue going back seven to eight years. It can be stated that the push to alter how judges are selected in Kansas began with the first school finance case (Montoy v. Kansas) and that push will only intensify should the Court rule in favor of the plaintiff and order additional funding.

Finally, the Kansas Supreme Court created a new committee to discuss and make recommendations for the judicial branch budget. The committee, chaired by Judge Karen Arnold-Burger, was organized to deal with a multimillion-dollar Judicial Branch funding shortfall. This committee will revisit recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Commission and develop both long-term and short-term strategies. The committee will prioritize funding reductions that may include furloughs. See http://www.kscourts.org/Kansas-Courts/General-Information/news-releases.asp#100713

and http://www.kscourts.org/pdf_inc/Final-Agenda-CBAC-100713.pdf.

 

As it currently stands, funding for the Supreme Court is under water from the proposed FY 2015 budget. In the FY 2015 budget the Supreme Court asks for 11 new judges and 30 new clerks to deal with high case districts. It also asks for funding to renovate the Supreme Court to deal with security and staffing issues.

Tags:  funding  Gannon  Judicial Branch  Kansas Supreme Court  KDHE  Montoy  Sierra Club 

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