This week the Kansas Senate approved a constitutional amendment on abortion; Gov. Laura Kelly created a nominating commission for Kansas Court of Appeals openings, and the KBA testified on two bills.
Last Wednesday evening, the Kansas Senate approved SCR 1613 which allows the legislature to make laws concerning abortion. This amendment would be placed on the August primary ballot. The final tally was 28-12 to approve. SCR 1613 was amended once to make the August primary a “special election”. This change was to fix a technicality which required all constitutional amendments to be placed on a special or general election. The August primary did not qualify, thus the need to amend the resolution. The resolution now heads to the House which is dealing with its own constitutional amendment on abortion. The House debate should come next week. Passage in the House will be more difficult, with 84 votes needed to approve. See; https://www.cjonline.com/news/20200129/kansas-senate-passes-constitutional-amendment-on-abortion; See also; https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article239732848.html
Last Tuesday, Gov. Kelly issued an Executive Order to create a nominating commission for the Kansas Court of Appeals. The commission will operate much as does the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. It will have 9 members, with 5 lawyers and 4 nonlawyers. Gov. Kelly will appoint all members to the commission including two from each congressional district and one chair. Linda Parks will be the Chair.
The KBA testified on two bills this week:
SB 269 – Increasing the retirement age for District Court Judges from 75-80 yrs. of age
The KBA joined Sen. Vic Miller and District Judge Norbet Marek in supporting the bill. The bill would allow a judge to serve to the age of 80. Currently a judge must retire upon reaching 75, unless their term of service extends past the age of 75. In that situation, the judge may serve till the end of their term. SB 269 would mandate a judge retire at age 80. Sen. Pyle (R-Hiawatha) had concerns that centered on the judicial selection process. He floated a term limit on judges but did not make that proposal official. The Senate Judiciary committee should work the bill in the coming weeks.
HB 2461 – Public Litigation Coordination Act
The KBA, KTLA, Kansas Counties, the League of Municipalities, Kansas School Board Association and seven other individual associations opposed HB 2461. This bill would prohibit public entities from entering contingency fee contracts without the written approval from the Kansas Attorney General. The purpose of the bill is to allow the state the opportunity to coordinate litigation of large public health issue, specifically opioids and vaping. The KSAG is willing to negotiate the specifics of the bill to carve out legal services that are not the intended target of the legislation and narrow the scope to satisfy local government issues, but the underlining policy of contingency fee contracts remains an issue. We will work with the committee on any amendments.
The KBA is monitoring several other bills including:
HB 2401 – LLC Quorum requirements
Rep. Boog Highberger (D-Lawrence) proposed a bill that would lower the quorum requirements for certain corporations to 10 percent. This bill is designed to assist the Merc Co-Op in Lawrence, Kansas, increase its corporate stock number. The Merc Co-Op would like to raise additional capital, but its corporate structure requires a vote by shareholders. The Merc board has attempted to hold an annual meeting to make these changes but has been unable to attain a quorum; so Rep. Highberger offered HB 2401. Our Corporate Law Section has concerns that this will negatively impact corporate law in Kansas. The section objects to legislation designed for a single entity and believes that non-legislative solutions are available to the Merc. The KBA will work with Rep. Highberger on the bill as it progresses.
HB 2500 – Uniform Power of Attorney Act
The bill is sponsored by the Kansas Judicial Council. The council proposed a similar bill two years ago which was roundly criticized and eventually withdrawn from consideration. The goal of the legislation is to require third parties to accept durable Power of Attorneys. The KBA Title Standard Committee is closely monitoring this bill.
Next week, the KBA will be involved in at least two bills:
SB 334 – Amendments to authentication of records and documents
The Kansas Judicial Council is attempting to amend the “Best Evidence Rule” in Kansas. SB 334 would modernize our authentication of document rules to better conform to the federal rule of evidence. Dean Jim Concannon is testifying in support of the bill and on behalf of the Kansas Judicial Council.
HB 2553 – Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act
The KBA approved the Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act at our December meeting. This bill has been introduced, and a hearing is set for Wednesday, February 5th in House Judiciary. Prof. Linda Elrod will testify on the bill, and Larry Rute has submitted testimony on behalf of the KBA.