Topeka The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 Friday to approve a bill allowing Kansas courts to temporarily raise docket fees to offset expected budget cuts.
The bill moves to the Senate floor although no date has been set for debate.
“We’re trying to avoid furloughs, which would be detrimental to our legal system,” said committee Chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican. “I believe very strongly in keeping the courts open.”
Funding for state courts is expected to be cut by $1 million in the current budget year, as legislators work to cut spending throughout state government.
Nearly all the judiciary’s budget, including appellate and trial courts, is for personnel. Any cuts likely would cause furloughs for court employees around the state, resulting in reduced access to the courts.
In 2002, the Supreme Court imposed a temporary $5 surcharge on docket fees to offset a budget shortfall. In 2006, the Legislature enacted a law that said only legislators can set the fees. Now, the judges want the Legislature to repeal that law and give the Kansas Supreme Court the authority to raise fees.
The court system has about 1,500 nonjudicial employees, including clerks, court service officers and secretaries and about 300 judges.