On just the fourth day of the new legislative session, lawmakers moved quickly to end the threat that Kansas courts would be stripped of their funding and forced to close.
The House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a measure that would fund the judicial system for this fiscal year and through the 2017 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
In 2014, the Legislature passed a law to take away the Supreme Court’s authority to appoint chief district judges. Last session, lawmakers approved a companion statute that said if the 2014 law were ruled unconstitutional, the court system’s budget would be void for 2016 and 2017.
In December, the Supreme Court ruled the 2014 law unconstitutional, which set up a potential court funding crisis. Attorney General Derek Schmidt obtained a court injunction to hold the law’s defunding language at bay until March 15.
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The bill approved by the committee Thursday would repeal the part of the 2015 law that linked the change in chief district judge selection with court funding. That bill will now go to the House floor.
“We’re trying to do what we can right away,” said Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican and committee chairman. “Our work today will remove that (defunding) clause, and we’ll fund the courts with the funding we left last year.”