Thursday, August 23, 2007
Budget Deal Shortchanges Courts on Security, AOC Lobbyist Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The $145 billion budget agreement announced by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders on Tuesday leaves courts with serious needs in the area of security, the chief lobbyist for the state court system said yesterday.
“Overall, the budget is quite positive” for courts, Kate Howard, director of governmental affairs for the Administrative Office of the Courts, told the MetNews. But there is “a significant issue with court security funding,” that the AOC and the California Sheriffs Association will be working to address before the end of the year, Howard said.
Statewide, court security was underfunded by $21 million, Howard said. Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger and Executive Officer John Clarke were set to brief County Bar trustees on the court’s security issues last night, an event that was scheduled before the budget agreement was announced.
Schwarzenegger had proposed additional security funding in the May revise of his budget proposal, but “we just didn’t get a deal worked out that everyone could sign onto.”
Howard also expressed concern that a $2.5 million appropriation to enhance self-help services relied upon by the ever-increasing number of pro per litigants may fall victim to a line-item veto. The governor has promised to “blue pencil” $700 million in spending in order to avert a deficit, and the self-help center appropriation is one that some Republican lawmakers have suggested could be cut.
The budget agreement, as expected, funds 50 new judgeships statewide, at least two of which would likely go to Los Angeles County. Those positions must be created by the Legislature, however.
A bill to do that, AB 159, passed the Assembly in June and is now pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill would also authorize the conversion, over a period of several years, of 162 existing court commissioner positions to judgeships.
The conversion, Howard explained, does not require new appropriations because the costs—significantly smaller than those involved in creating a completely new judicial position—will be absorbed within the judicial branch.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company