Senate Funds Appointed Attorneys, Counties to Pay for Cost Overruns

Once again funds have been restricted for the operation of the appointed attorney program with a requirement that counties pay for cost overruns.

The Senate passed the budget bill, SB 190, restricts $10 million in Judiciary’s budget to provide for attorney representation at an initial appearance before a District Court Commissioner. The requirement to provide representation is consistent with the holding of the Court of Appeals in DeWolfe v. Richmond. It also obligates counties to pay for any costs that exceed what has been appropriated and restricted upon enactment of a separate bill but complementary bill SB 1134.

As the Governor did not introduced a BRFA there was no vehicle to authorize the state to charge counties for any expenditures in excess of the $10 million without specific legislation. SB 1134 fulfills that task.  A hearing on the bill is scheduled for March 23 in the Judicial Proceedings Committee. MACo opposes this bill.

In the House, HB 1638, would prohibit the state from charging counties for any costs that exceed the restricted amount of funds for the program. However that bill is still in the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee.