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Minutes for HB2461 - Committee on Judiciary

Short Title

Enacting the public litigation coordination act to restrict contracts by public entities for legal services on a contingent fee basis.

Minutes Content for Wed, Jan 29, 2020

Natalie Scott provided an overview of HB2461. She stood for questions. (Attachment 1)

Derek Schmidt provided testimony in support of the bill.  The Attorney General stated any contract in effect after the effective date of the Act would not allow contracts for legal service on a contingent fee basis. (Attachment 2)

Eric Stafford provided testimony in support of the bill. Mr Stafford referenced a document that was not provided in this testimony. It can be found at this link: Mitigating Municipality Litigation. Specially, he states page 5 of the document, where it explains that local agencies are finding ways to generate additional revenue streams for there businesses.(Attachment 3)

Both Attorney General Schmidt and Mr. Stafford stood for questions.

Chairperson Patton asked the membership to refer to several pieces of written testimony that were provided in their bill folders.

Written Proponent

  • John Donley on behalf of Kansas Farm Bureau (Attachment 4)
  • Jesse McCurry, President, Kansas Agricultural Alliance (Attachment 5)
  • Randy Stookey, Sr. V.P. of Government Affairs, KS Grain & Feed Assoc. KS Agribusiness Retailers  Assoc., Renew KS Bio-fuels Assoc.(Attachment 6)
  • Shahira Stafford, Kansas Cooperative Council (Attachment 7)

All the following conferees in opposition to this bill stood for questions after the last conferee, Michael Koss, was finished with his testimony.

Representative John Carmichael provided opposition testimony for bill HB2461. Representative Carmichael began by stating "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."  He then referenced multiple clippings provided in his testimony. (Attachment 8) He explained the clippings serve as a reminder why Kansas retains to counties, municipalities, and school boards the right to retain counsel to represent them, without interference by the attorney general.  It is not good public policy to leave these contracts in the hands of one individual, referring to the Attorney General.

Amanda Stanley provided opposition testimony for the bill. Ms. Stanley stated the bill, as proposed by the Attorney General, would preempt cities from contracting for legal service on a contingent fee basis without written permission for the attorney general. She suggests many amendments could be done to address the concerns brought forward by the League of Kansas Municipalities. (Attachment 9)

Mark Tallman provided opposition testimony for the bill. Mr. Tallman stated there are two main reasons for the opposing testimony. First, his organizations general support for the concept of control, which implies a constitutional balance between the interest of the state and the interests of local communities. Second, that members currently using this authority in contingent fee cases. (Attachment 10)

Jay Hall provided opposition testimony for the bill. Mr. Hall sited three main reasons for the opposing testimony; 1. Control, 2. Contingent fees, 3. Ethical obligations. He is encouraging amendments to the bill that would address these concerns. (Attachment 11)

Callie Jill Denton provided opposition testimony for the bill. Ms. Denton stated the Attorney General acting as a gatekeeper is not a good idea. Also the bill targets contingent fees. (Attachment 12)

Doug Smith provided opposition testimony for the bill. Mr. Smith stated the arrangement of contingency fees are popular for their clients due to "no upfront" costs. His agency would like to seek exemption for public entities under certain conditions. (Attachment 13)

Darci Meese provided opposition testimony for the bill. Ms. Meese stated the broad definition of "municipality" has the unintended consequence of stifling her organizations ability to efficiently make their ratepayers whole when wrongdoing has occurred.  She is requesting an alternative definition of municipality be considered. (Attachment 14)

Jon Kieffer provided opposition testimony for the bill. Mr. Kieffer stated his law firm represents local governments (cities, counties and school districts) and they do not support constraining them from these contingency fees or preventing local entities from choosing their own local representation. (Attachment 15)

Michael Koss provided opposition testimony for the bill. Mr. Koss stated the city of Overland Park would not oppose this legislation if a few key changes were made. The City opposes the current version of the bill because infringes on local control and prevents the City from potentially advancing the interests of the community as determined by the Mayor and City Council. Contingency fees are often used when the funds necessary are astronomical and not allowing them would have a direct impact on public services. (Attachment 16)

All of the conferees stood available for questions from the membership.

Written Opponent

  • Jennifer L. Magana, City Attorney & Director of Law, City of Wichita (Attachment 17)
  • James Crowl, County Counselor, Shawnee County (Attachment 18)
  • Stuart Little Ph.D., on behalf of a coalition of cities, Merriam, Mission and Westwood Hills. (Attachment 19)
  • David A. Smith, Chief Communications Officer, Shawnee Mission School District (Attachment 20)
  • Joseph Molina, on behalf of the Kansas Bar Association (Attachment 21)
  • Michael D. Pepoon, County Counselor, Sedgwick County (Attachment 22)
  • Cindy Harrison, City of Lenexa (Attachment 23)

Chairperson Patton directed committee members to refer to the written  opponent testimony in their folders. Chairperson Patton closed the hearing on the bill.