The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Adventures in the Statehouse

  • In past sessions, the House of Representatives has held a joint session
    with the Senate to hear the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court present
    the State of the Judiciary.
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  • Melanie Meier's Adventures in the Statehouse
    Kansas House of Representatives
    Volume 2013, Issue 4: February 10, 2013
    In This Issue
    - State of the Judiciary
    - Executive Reorganization Order No. 42
    - Keep in Touch
    State of the Judiciary
    In past sessions, the House of Representatives has held a joint session
    with the Senate to hear the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court present
    the State of the Judiciary. This year the new Speaker of the House
    denied the Chief Justice's request so we received the report in writing
    and it was dated January 31, 2013. I have summarized some of the
    Chief Justice Nuss gave an update on "Project Pegasus," a two part
    project designed to study the Kansas Judicial system and make
    recommendations on efficiency. The first part was a weighted caseload
    study to measure the actual workloads of all Kansas district courts and
    services. The Judges and employees kept track of their tasks and how
    long it took to perform them. The second part was a Blue Ribbon
    Commission, made up of 24 Kansans of various professions, that reviewed the caseload study and Judicial operations across the state in order to make the recommendations. The Project was completed last year.
    The Chief Justice stated that the study showed Kansas has the correct
    number of Judges to handle the caseload, but they are not in the most
    efficient locations. There is a Kansas statute that requires at least
    one judge to live and work in each county, so some Judges are under
    utilized in counties with lower populations. The Judicial branch
    requested legislation last year to allow them to manage the judges and
    locate them where they are best utilized, but the legislation failed.
    This year they are asking for the legislature to create and fund the 22
    new judges and staff that are needed to complete the caseloads in the
    most populated counties, since they cannot move them around.
    The study also showed the possibility of better efficiency by using
    electronic filing of documents, so pilot projects were started in
    Douglas, Leavenworth, and Sedgwick Counties. The Judicial Branch's goal this year is to centralize this "e-court" system and to use it statewide in order to allow court personnel to work on cases anywhere in the state enabling Kansas to keep all 105 county court clerk offices open and utilized. The pilot program was paid for using a Justice Assistance Grant at no cost to Kansas. In 2012, the Judicial branch had asked the legislature for the ability to raise the $2 million necessary to pay for a statewide system by assessing fees on the users of the system. That legislation also failed.
    The Chief Justice described other cost saving measures the Judicial
    Branch has implemented:
    - The Court of Appeals has started using video conferencing instead of
    personal appearances for certain activities in order to save travel
    - The Court of Appeals is developing a program for mediation of appealsin order to save time and money, plus reduce of the number of cases that go to court
    - The Supreme Court has partnered with KU Law to allow students to
    perform legal research. This allows research at no cost to Kansas and
    gives the students experience.
    He closed by stating that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has ranked the Kansas courts 5th among the states for their liability system that makes Kansas more business friendly. He warned that an inadequately funded court system will cause Kansas to drop in its national rankings and affect our competiveness in attracting new business.
    Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) No. 42
    We heard and discussed the Governor's ERO 42, in the Corrections &
    Juvenile Justice Committee this week. It is the order to move the
    Juvenile Justice Authority under the Department of Corrections.
    The proponents were the Secretary of Corrections and the Acting
    Commissioner of the Juvenile Justice Authority (JJA). They stated that
    the motivation for the move is public safety and not efficiency. There
    was a Legislative Post Audit of the JJA last year that produced some
    alarming findings about the security posture of the facility in Topeka.
    The Department of Corrections stepped in to help remedy the situation by providing the current Acting Commissioner and supporting her with
    equipment and measures such as search dogs. They testified that they
    already share some training and the Information Technology Department and could possibly save money through sharing health care and food programs. The Secretary of Corrections stated that he intends on keeping the budgets separate and that he cannot transfer personnel between the two because the training to work with juveniles is so specialized. They also stated that 9 other states have their JJA work under the Department of Corrections, and the Juveniles would just be another specialized population that the Secretary would be responsible for.
    The opponents were a Senator that was in the legislature when the JJA
    was formed, a Representative that has worked on the joint commissions for corrections and juvenile justice and the KS Association of Counties.
    The KS Community Corrections Association stated that they were a
    proponent, but started their testimony by saying that they were under no illusion that the ERO would be defeated and feared that the JJA programs are more likely to succumb to future budget reductions if they are under the Department of Corrections. The opponents testified that the legislature spent several years studying evidence based on research by experts in working with juveniles when they formed the JJA and that this move does nothing to fix the public safety issues addressed by the audit. They pointed out that both the proponents testified that they had already remedied the issues identified in the Legislative Post Audit report, which were attributed to hiring underqualified and unqualified individuals to lead the JJA, large funding cuts, and inequities in salaries. The opponents testified that the juvenile and adult systems are two very different cultures that juveniles are much more than just a specialized population. The opponents stated that this ERO was just a "knee jerk reaction" to bad audit findings, with no input by the stakeholders and the only proponents work directly for the Governor.
    Keep in Touch
    I am privileged and honored to be your voice in the Kansas Capitol. You
    can track my activities on my website www.meier4kansas.com, my Facebook page www.facebook.com/Meier4Kansas, and Twitter
    If I can ever be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me.
    My Topeka office address is Kansas State Capitol, Topeka, KS 66612. You can also reach me at the legislative hotline, 1-800-432-3924 or e-mail me at melanie.meier@house.ks.gov.
    If you need to directly contact a particular agency in state government,
    you can find useful telephone numbers online at
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