Tuesday, May 17, 2005
State Bar Dues Bill Passes in Assembly on 49-25 Vote
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Base dues for active State Bar members would rise for the first time since 2000 and inactive dues would more than double under a measure that won approval in the state Assembly yesterday.
The chamber voted 49-25 in favor of AB 1529, sponsored by Judiciary Committee chairman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento. Six Republican members joined 43 Democrats in voting for the measure.
The votes against the bill all came from Republicans. Assemblymen Ray Haynes, R-Temecula, a member of the committee, spoke against the measure on the Assembly floor.
The measure would raise total dues for active members to $395 for next year and to $400 for 2007. Current dues are $390.
Inactive dues would rise from $50 to $115 next year and $125 in 2007.
In addition to base dues, dues for active members currently include assessments to support the State Bar’s building fund, its Client Security Fund, its discipline system, and its “diversion” program for lawyers with substance abuse problems. AB 1529 would increase the CSF assessment by $5 next year and the base dues by $5 the following year.
It would also make the CSF, diversion, and discipline assessments applicable to inactive attorneys for the first time. Currently, inactive members — whose status does not permit them to practice law — pay only $40 in base dues and a $10 building fund assessment.
The CSF assessment for inactive lawyers would be only $10. Active members would pay $40 annually under the bill’s provisions to support the fund, which reimburses clients harmed by attorney misconduct.
The $25 discipline system assessment and the $10 diversion program fee are unchanged for active bar members under the bill. The discipline assessment would also be charged to inactive members, as would a diversion program fee of $5.
The hike in base dues for active members, from $310 to $315 in 2007, would be the first increase since the State Bar’s authorization to assess dues was renewed in 1999 following the near-shutdown of State Bar functions the year before in the wake of then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s State Bar dues veto.
AB 1529 would also change the “scaling” system the State Bar uses to reduce dues assessments for lawyers with limited incomes. Current law allows a 25 percent dues reduction for attorneys whose annual income from law practice is less than $40,000 and a 50 percent reduction for those whose total income is less than $30,000.
The bill which advanced yesterday would eliminate the 50 percent cut and permit only those attorneys whose total income is less than $40,000 to qualify for the smaller reduction.
Under current law the State Bar’s authority to charge dues to the state’s lawyers expires on Jan. 1, 2006. As originally introduced, AB 1529 would have eliminated that “sunset” provision, permitting the State Bar to charge dues for the indefinite future at the authorized level.
But the bill was amended before it received Judiciary Committee approval to authorize dues only until Jan. 1, 2008. The amendments also reduced the amount by which inactive dues would increase.
As originally introduced, the measure would have increased base dues for inactive members to $90 and required them to make the same $10 contribution that active members make to the diversion program.
That would have raised total dues for inactive members to $145. The amended bill sets base dues at $65 for 2006 and $75 for 2007.
The original version of bill did not include the $5 hike in base dues for active members, which under the amended measure would take effect in 2007. State Bar officials had hailed the bi-partisan support for the measure, which after it was amended won the support of Judiciary Committee Vice-Chairman Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach.
The amended version also would make the provisions of Government Code 87103, which details the circumstances under which a public official is deemed to have a “financial interest” in a decision, applicable to members of the State Bar Board of Governors.
Business and Professions Code Sec. 6036 currently contains its own specification, applicable only to board members, of financial interests which can require disqualification. That language would be eliminated and replaced by a reference to the more general Government Code provisions.
The Republicans voting for the bill were Lynn Daucher of Brea, Bonnie Garcia of El Centro, Harman, Shirley Horton of Lemon Grove, Keith Richman of Granada Hills, and Todd Spitzer of Orange. Harman also spoke on the floor in support of the measure.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company