There are only five days left until First Adjournment, which means committee meetings are over and most work will take place on the floor of either chamber or in conference committees involving members of both chambers.
The judicial branch budget continues to be unresolved. As it currently stands, none of the judicial branch budget requests have been passed. HB 2041, the judicial surcharge extension, has been referred to the judicial conference committee, and the senate still has HB 2279, DUI reinstatement fees, below the line for debate. The senate passed over HB 2279 yesterday due to a new $25 fee added to the bill. If the DUI reinstatement bill is not passed, the judicial branch is looking at a $950,000 shortfall.
Most pressing is the uncertain judicial branch salary increase issue. To date, both chambers have discussed raising salaries for judicial branch employees, but there remains a concern about increasing judges’ salaries.
For their part, senators passed SB 189 last Thursday. This bill gives all state employees a two percent raise. House appropriations included a raise for judicial branch employees totaling $6 million and added approximately $840,000 in new positions related to juvenile justice.
Muddying the water is the recent revenue shortfall for March. The state was down $12 million for the month, although it is still up around $48 million for the year. Many legislators have expressed a desire to wait until the veto session before revisiting the judicial branch enhancement issue and then only if more funds become available. With the downturn in revenue for March, an April miracle seems unlikely.
The court has sent out a “Call to Action” on the judicial branch budget. Should you wish to participate, you can locate your legislators using the following links: