Kansas Senate OKs ‘compromise’ judiciary budget

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Senate’s approval of a bill that funds the Kansas judicial branch means furloughs are less likely, a top Republican supporter said, but Democrats are crying foul because of several strings attached - including two measures to decentralize the power of the state Supreme Court.

In a 23-12 vote Thursday, a day before the Kansas Supreme Court handed down the much-anticipated school funding decision, the Kansas Senate approved an omnibus bill containing five judicial measures, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/O17PmY ) reported.

Senate Vice President Jeff King called the bill a compromise that the state’s district courts were willing to accept in order to get a budget for the next 16 months and avoid furloughs.

“If we pass this bill, Mr. Chairman, the courts of Kansas will be allowed to remain open for business,” the Independence Republican said.

Passing the budget before Friday’s school funding decision sent a strong message that the Senate decides the judiciary budget based on what the courts need, rather than on any court decisions, King said.

In addition to funding courts, Senate Substitute for House Bill 2338 also would increase docket fees on some large litigation, allow some judicial positions to remain open for 120 days to save money and allow the chief judges of the state’s 31 judicial districts to take control of their individual budgets from the Kansas Supreme Court.

It also would let judicial districts to elect their own chiefs, instead of the current process of Supreme Court appointments.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said the bill was meant to force those who have long favored increasing the judicial budget into a position to vote “no” because of its add-ons.

“This bill is unprecedented,” said Hensley, the Legislature’s longest-serving member.

King said the bill was not unique and cited policy provisions tied to salary increases within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

“This has been done,” he said.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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