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.
The KBA held its KBA Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 12th. KBA volunteers meet with 54 legislators. Our goal was to create support for judicial branch pay increases for judges and staff. The KBA helped set up meeting with legislators and provided materials for these meetings. Most of our volunteers met with freshman legislators. We focused on this group because we have not formally discussed judicial pay raises with them.
Our volunteers reported strong support for pay increase for staff and district judges but very limited support for raises for the Supreme Court. A tension still exists between some legislators and the Supreme Court. It was said more than once that raises for staff should be the priority.
The KBA Day at the Capitol was well timed since the House Appropriations and Senate Ways & Means Committee were discussing the Judicial Branch budget this week. House Appropriations keep the language in for raises in their version of the budget. The House version would see a 3-year implementation plan for staff with a 5-year plan for judges. Senate Ways & Means decided to pass the judicial branch budget expect for the raise portion. They will discuss the pay plan at omnibus.
I would like to thank our volunteers for sparing a day to advocate for the judicial branch. Pictures courtesy of Ryan Purcell, KBA staff.
Gov. Kelly nominates Hon. Jeffry Jack
The Kansas Bar Association congratulates Hon. Jeffry Jack on his nomination to the Kansas Court of Appeals. Judge Jack will be well-served by his 31 years of experience as a member of the Kansas Bar and his 13 years as a Labette County district court judge.
The KBA also commends Governor Kelly for increasing transparency, implementing a merit-selection process to choose the finalists for this important position.
KBA President Sarah Warner observed, “Kansans are well-served by a process that encourages people of Judge Jack’s intellect and background to serve on the state’s appellate courts. We heartily congratulate Judge Jack and urge the Kansas Senate to swiftly confirm his nomination so he may take his place on the Court of Appeals.”
The countdown to Election Day has begun! With six weeks to go until Election Day, it’s time to make sure you are prepared to vote! If you have not registered to vote in the general election the deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 18. To register for the general election, a link to the Kansas Voter Registration Instruction can be found here- http://www.sos.ks.gov/forms/elections/voterregistration.pdf
This election is an important one for our state as it allows each citizen the opportunity to choose a new president, a new State representative, State senator, and to decide if 11 appellate court judges/justices should retain their position--the outcome is in your hands.
To learn more about the judges’/justices’ performance please visit – www.kansasjudgereview.org to review a survey sponsored by Kansas civic organizations.
The Kansas Constitution requires Kansas Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeal Judges to be placed on the general election ballot every six years (4 yrs. for the COA); so voters can determine whether these judges/justices should remain on their courts for another term. This year, five Supreme Court Justices and six Court of Appeal Judges will be on the ballot.
The Judges and Justices:
Kansas Supreme Court Justices
Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss
Justice Marla J. Luckert
Justice Carol A. Beier
Justice Dan Biles
Justice Caleb Stegall
Kansas Court of Appeal Judges
Judge Steve Leben
Judge G. Joseph Pierron
Judge David E. Bruns
Judge G. Gordon Atcheson
Judge Karen Arnold-Burger
Judge Kathryn A. Gardner
Retention elections are a vital component to the merit selection process for selecting appellate court justices. However, they are different than partisan elections because, unlike partisan elections, judges are not running against opponents or each other. Merit retention elections are nonpartisan were the judges/justice appear on the ballot without reference to any political party, (e.g. Democrat or Republican).
Tell your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues that information on the retention election can be found at www.ourkansascourts.org.
If you would like a non-partisan KBA official to speak to your group about the elections contact:
Director of Member and Communication Services firstname.lastname@example.org
Direct: (785) 861-8817
Both bills passed on 13-9 votes and are now headed to the House floor. Timing is the issue now. The first major deadline for the session is turnaround on Friday, February 27. All bills not passed out of their house of origin are dead after this date; this does not include concurrent resolutions. It is likely that leadership will use this week to pass bills that would die if left till after the deadline then run the judicial selection bills.
However, the session is a fluid place and things change rapidly. If either of these resolutions comes up for debate, the KBA will mobilize our membership on short order. For those that are interested, please keep an eye out for a "Call to Action” email to be sent via a "KBA Alert.” This email will include links to both resolutions, links to legislators contact information, a sample email to use and talking points if anyone wishes to personally call their representative.
In addition, the KBA testified on SB 197, which makes the Supreme Court Nominating Commission (SCNC) a public body subject to the open records act.
Judge Karen Arnold-Burger, KSAJ, and KADC also opposed this bill. Sen. King believes that SB 197 is a technical fix that expands the transparency of the SCNC. He believes that issues can be fixed with simple changes and that no constitutional issues exist. You can find the KBA testimony online. This bill should be worked in short order.
The separation of powers issue is also very present in the recently filed lawsuit Solomon v. Kansas. Here Judge Solomon claims that last year’s judicial budget omnibus bill is unconstitutional. The lawsuit also claims that the omnibus bill was retaliation for the school finance ruling. Judge Solomon is represented by Pedro Irogonegaray
The Solomon case may very well bleed over into the Judicial Budget for FY 16/17. The subcommittee on agency budgets held a hearing on the judicial branch budget on Thursday, February 19. The judiciary presented a budget requesting an additional $8.5 million. This would be for operations in FY 16. The judicial branch explained that without these added funds the court would be forced to furlough. It is up to the legislature to fund this request or allow the courts to add additional surcharges. How this plays out remains to be seen.
Also, please visit www.ksbar.org to find any bills of interest in the KBA Bill Tracking Chart.
The 2014 legislative session reached First Adjournment on Friday, April 4 and continued working until Sunday, April 6 when a school finance plan was approved by the Kansas House. First Adjournment is the last official day of the regular session but legislators wanting to finalize the school finance issues it dragged on for the entire weekend. The importance of this date cannot be understated because bills not passed by both houses (exempt committees have some leeway) are dead for the session. This being an even numbered year also means they do not carry over and must be reintroduced as a new bill with a new bill number next year.
Once the dust settled, the Senate had the upper hand and passed their bill first. The House concurred to the Senate position that eliminated tenure for K-12 teachers. This is seen as a union busting measure and praised by a number of conservatives who championed teacher reform measures.
Provides an additional $109,265,000 for Supplemental General State Aid (Local Option Budget Equalization).
Transfer $25,200,786 to the Capital Outlay Fund from the state general fund.
Changes the definition of At-Risk Pupil to exclude those students in grades 1-12 who are not full time and those over 19 years of age. Provisions wouldn’t apply if a student had an individualized education program (IEP).
Establish the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission.
Alternative Teacher Licensure provisions.
Increase to 20 percent the number of Kansas schools that can participate as an Innovative School Districts.
Changes statutory Base State Aid Per Pupil to $3,838.
Eliminates due process rights for tenured public school teachers.
Corporate Education Tax Credit Scholarship Program, allowing companies to give $10,000 for scholarships for kids who come from families who make less than $43,000 a year or have a IEP.
In addition, both the House and Senate voted to approve the Conference Committee Report on HB 2338, which contains the judicial budget. The KBA was unsuccessful in removing the policy provisions that de-unified the court system.
Appropriates $2 million additional from the state general fund for FY 2015.
Increases existing docket fees and create statutory filing fees for appeals to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
Allows chief judge in a judicial district to elect to be responsible for submitting a budget for the judicial district to the chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.
District court judges in each judicial district would elect a district judge to serve as chief judge.
Requires the chief justice to provide notification of a vacancy in the office of district court judge or district magistrate court judge to the chairperson of the district judicial nominating commission not later than 120 days following the date of the vacancy.
Deletes requirement for the payment of longevity to Judicial Branch non-judicial staff.
The KBA was able to thwart an attempt by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to alter the collateral source rule in Kansas. The bill, SB 311, increased the cap on non-economic damages to $350,000. The bill included two policy provisions; one adopted the Daubertexpert witness standard. The other allowed evidence of collateral source payments to be introduced to a jury. The KBA worked diligently with Kansas Association for Justice to remove the provision. The final agreed upon bill passed both chambers without collateral source.
The KBA received good news when both of its bills (HB 2398, dealing with LLCs, and HB 2444, dealing with spend thrift trusts) passed prior to First Adjournment and are now on their way to the governor for his signature. The KBA has requested a bill signing ceremony with the governor for HB 2398. This will be an excellent way to recognize the hard work of the LLC subcommittee (Bill Quick, Bill Matthew, Webb Hecker, and Joe Jarvis). I hope to have photos taken for the KBA Journal.
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. Seehttp://www.kscourts.org/Kansas-Courts/General-Information/news-releases.asp#100713
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.