LWV Kansas Action Alert: Save Judicial Funding

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ACTION ALERT FROM THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF KANSAS

              HOUSE BILL 2005

The League of Women Voters of Kansas sends this action alert to the membership regarding HB2005 which is pending in the current legislative session. Paul Johnson’s report #18 refers to HB2005. If you have not read his report, we suggest you do so. {Hedge note:  I don’t have this link and have requested it} HB2005 has drawn attention from national media and the Brennen Center for Justice at New York University. If it passes, it will be without precedent.

For the past two years, the Kansas Legislature has tied reforms to funding for the judiciary. HB2005 separates funding for the courts from the rest of the state’s budget. That would give the legislative branch direct control of the judiciary’s purse strings without jeopardizing action on the entire budget. HB2005 would add $14 million to the judiciary budget in FY 2016 and FY 2017 in exchange for a “non-severability” clause. Under this provision, the legislature could hold the courts hostage. The judiciary could be defunded if it rejects policy reforms set by the legislature. As the judicial budget would be separate from the state’s budget, it would take a special legislative session to restore funding to the courts.

Background information makes the implications of HB2005, if it passes, clearer. HB2338 passed in 2014. That bill stripped the Supreme Court of some of its administrative powers. Of note is that Article 3 of the Kansas Constitution gives the Supreme Court general administrative powers over all courts in the state. HB2338 also had a monetary carrot attached to it if the judiciary accepted legislative reforms. A part of HB233 is currently being contested in the court system. If the court finds all or part of HB2338 unconstitutional, the Legislature would strip funding from the judicial branch of government for negating reforms.

In opposing HB2005, the League of Women Voters of Kansas cites the Principles of the League of Women Voters of the United States that all powers of government should be exercised in the constitutional framework of a balance among the three branches of government. We hold the opinion that this principal applies to state governance as well. We believe that passage of HB2005 would radically change the constitutional balance of power by giving the Legislative branch of Kansas government unprecedented control over what should be an independent Judiciary.

The League of Women Voters of Kansas urges its members to contact representatives in their districts as soon as possible to vote no on HB2005. A complete list of legislators and their contact information is at http://www.kslegislature.org

 

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