- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - In a story June 1 about the Kansas Legislature, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the Senate’s approval Monday of a gun-rights measure sent it to Gov. Sam Brownback. The Senate’s action sent the measure to the House for its approval.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Kansas lawmakers approve $131M budget for state court system

Budget for Kansas court system, gun measure clear state Legislature; marijuana laws an issue

By JOHN HANNA

AP Political Writer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators on Monday approved a budget for the state court system to head off the possibility that judicial offices would be forced to close next week.

The Senate also approved a bill to prevent cities and counties from imposing special taxes on gun sales or using zoning ordinances to limit firearms sales. A Democrat also criticized the Senate’s lack of action on proposals to loosen marijuana laws, briefly delaying the approval of a bill aimed at helping human trafficking victims.

The court system’s funding was the first piece of a proposed $15.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 to clear the Republican-dominated Legislature. State Budget Director Shawn Sullivan has warned that nonessential employees will face furloughs if a budget isn’t passed by Sunday because of payroll laws.

Here is a closer look at legislative developments.

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COURT SYSTEM’S BUDGET

The budget for the court system would allow it to spend $131 million during the next fiscal year, an increase of nearly $2.5 million, or 1.9 percent. But the Kansas Supreme Court had sought a $149 million budget.

“The budget is too short to provide the justice for the citizens of our state,” said Rep. Jerry Henry, of Atchison, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

But with the threat of furloughs looming, the House approved the measure, 88-26. The Senate approved the bill Sunday, 25-14, and it goes next to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

“What we have to do right now is fund the judiciary so they can keep the lights on next week,” said Republican Steven Becker, of Buhler, a retired district court judge.

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ANOTHER JUDICIAL ISSUE

The budget for the court system also stirred opposition because it was tied to a 2014 law under which the judges in each court district pick their chief judges. Previously, the Supreme Court assigned them.

The state constitution says the Supreme Court has “general administrative authority” over the courts. Critics see the law as a slap at the high court because of past rulings lawmakers haven’t liked.

A south-central Kansas judge filed a lawsuit against the statute in Shawnee County District Court earlier this year. The budget approved by lawmakers Monday includes a clause - also included in last year’s budget - that says if any part of the statute is struck down, so is funding for the court system.

Critics of the clause contend it’s an attempt to pressure the courts into upholding last year’s law. Supporters say local judges should be able to picking their leaders.

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GUN LAWS

The Senate approved the gun measure, 35-3. The bill goes next to the House, where approval would send it to Brownback.

The measure follows up on a law enacted last year meant to nullify all city and county restrictions on firearms to end what gun rights supporters argued was a confusing jumble of local rules.

But the 2014 law didn’t specifically address local officials’ zoning powers or their power to levy taxes and fees.

The bill still would allow cities and counties to apply their general sales taxes to gun purchases, however.

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NO ACTION ON POT

The human trafficking bill allows victims to file lawsuits against their abusers. The Senate it passed it 37-0, after the House approved it, 111-0.

The final version was drafted by negotiators for the two chambers, and the Senate’s vote came after Democratic Sen. David Haley, of Kansas City, sought unsuccessfully to have it sent back to the negotiators for more work.

Haley wanted to insert marijuana proposals that have passed the House but stalled in the Senate. One would decrease criminal penalties for marijuana possession and another would allow the limited production and sale of hemp oil to treat seizures.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King, an Independence Republican, said putting those proposals into the human trafficking measure would violate the state constitution’s requirement that each bill have only one subject.

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SEX OFFENDERS

Lawmakers also approved a bill that would put new limits on appeals by sex offenders committed indefinitely to a state treatment program.

The votes Monday were 36-2 in the Senate and 111-0 in the House.

Offenders determined by a court to be sexual predators are committed to a treatment program after serving their criminal sentences, and few are released.

The bill would remove the right of confined offenders to request a jury trial when petitioning for release. It also would limit their right to file grievances on some issues.

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Associated Press writer Nicholas Clayton also contributed to this report.

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Online:

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org .

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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