TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly signed legislation suspending the speedy-trial law in Kansas for two years in response to the massive backlog of criminal cases that build up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, said Wednesday that she signed House Bill 2078 to sideline a defendant’s right to a speedy trial in all criminal cases until May 1, 2023. It was passed by the House 114-7 and by the Senate 32-7.
The bill deleted from state law authority of the chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court to extend or suspend trial deadlines. The law included a section mandating district courts prioritize cases for trial based on a defendant’s assertion of a right to a prompt trial, trial calendar of lawyers, availability of witnesses and the relative safety of participants in relation to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The office of judicial administration in Kansas must prepare for the Senate and House a report in 2022 and 2023 outlining the number of pending criminal cases, the number criminal cases resolved, the number of jury trials and the number of new criminal cases filed.
In addition, Kelly signed Senate Bill 77 to authorize the state’s participation in an audiology and speech-language pathology multi-state compact to improve access to services. It cleared the Senate 38-2 and the House on a 119-3 vote.
“I’m pleased to sign this bill making Kansas the 10th state in the nation to pass this legislation, and make sure that Kansans and their children are able to receive this critical care,” the governor said.
She also signed Senate Bill 21 to retroactively ratify results of the November election in Cherokee County imposing a 0.5% retail sales tax for financing of ambulance services, renovation and maintenance of county buildings and facilities, and other projects approved by county officials. The bill required all proceeds of the sales tax to be retained by the county rather than shared with municipalities.
The county tax legislation was approved by the House 119-4 and by the Senate 34-1, with the lone dissenter Sen. Virgil Peck, a Republican from Havana in southeast Kansas.
Signing by the governor of House Bill 2124, approved unanimously by the House and Senate, clarified clinics owned or operated by a school in partnership with health providers to engage in the practice of healing arts.