The Kansas House has approved a bill to keep the state's courts open following a legal dispute involving their budget



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TOPEKA, Kansas — A bill aimed at keeping Kansas' courts open following a legal dispute involving their budget was approved Thursday by the state House.

The measure passed 119-0 vote and goes next to the Senate. It would repeal a 2015 law threatening the court system's budget.

Abortion rights legislators said they'll pursue measures to repeal several anti-abortion laws enacted since Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office in January 2011.

Democrats also outlined a package of "good government" measures that include a proposal aimed at shortening the GOP-dominated Legislature's annual sessions.

Here is a look at legislative developments Thursday.


JUDICIAL BUDGET DISPUTE

Legislators are moving quickly to avoid a shutdown of all state courts from a push by some Republicans to curb the Kansas Supreme Court's administrative power.

The 2015 the House-passed bill would repeal said the judiciary's entire budget through June 2017 would be nullified if the courts struck down another law enacted by Republicans in 2014.

The 2014 law stripped the Supreme Court of its power to appoint chief judges in each of the state's 31 judicial districts and gave it to local judges instead. Supporters of the change said they wanted to give local judges more say in how their courts are run, not shut the judiciary down.

The Supreme Court invalidated the 2014 law last month, saying it improperly infringed on the power granted to the justices under the state constitution to administer the courts.

"All the courts will remain open by this bill," said Rep. Jerry Henry, an Atchison Democrat. "We will be able to have justice."


ABORTION PROPOSALS

Brownback said in his most State of the State address earlier this month that anti-abortion laws in Kansas have made it "the shining city on the hill" and the state's residents "champions for life."

But Rep. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican, said she and other abortion rights supporters will introduce three bills that are a response to attacks on a woman's right to make health care choices. She was joined at a news conference by Democratic Reps. Annie Kuether, of Topeka, and Jim Ward, of Wichita.

One measure would repeal laws that prevent women from deducting abortion expenses from their state income taxes and restrict private health insurance coverage of abortions.

A second bill would repeal a ban on so-called telemedicine abortions.

A third measure promotes the use of reversible contraceptives that can prevent pregnancies for up to 10 years.


SHORTER SESSIONS?

Democrats lawmakers had a news conference to highlight proposals that they believe will make state government more transparent and accountable to voters.

The proposals include strengthening open meetings and records law and barring elected officials and Cabinet appointees from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office.

But top Democrats are also endorsing a proposal from Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City to cut legislators' pay off once they've spent 90 days in session in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years.

Holland said the goal is to force legislators to be more efficient in how they handle their work. Last year's session lasted a record 114 days.

"Democrats in Topeka can't make these reforms without some help," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. "We need Republicans, Democrats and independents in every part of this state to contact their legislators."


Online:

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


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

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