June 30, 2017

Oregon Judicial Department Budget Passes out of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means

On June 28, 2017, the budget of the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD), HB 5013, passed out of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. The bill is now headed to the House and Senate floors for a vote. Although the total funds of $503,751,137 is less that the amount identified as necessary to fund the department at the current service level, the funding does identify earmarked dollars for Oregon eCourt as well as treatment and specialty court programs. Further, the budget in HB 5013 does not include funding for capital construction projects such as the Multnomah County Courthouse. Projects such as courthouse reconstruction may be addressed in another bill later in the legislative process.

The OJD budget includes a 4.4 percent reduction (approximately $14 million) in General Fund dollars for the trial, tax, and appellate courts as well as court administration. Further, there is nearly a $1 million reduction in funding for pass-through payments. These reductions will apply to mediation and conciliation services, law libraries, court security, the Oregon Law Commission, and the Council on Court Procedures.

The Oregon eCourt program, as part of the OJD budget, received approval for a $10.7 million Other Fund expenditure from the State Court Technology Fund. This funding will be directed towards supporting staff positions and to make other payments as necessary for Oregon eCourt. HB 2795 and HB 2797, which will increase filing fees and criminal fine amounts to fund Oregon eCourt, are moving forward as well.

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New Judges for Josephine and Washington Counties

HB 2605, as introduced, would have increased the total number of circuit-court positions in Oregon by adding nine new judicial positions to begin in January 2019. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee and was sent to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

After reviewing the proposal, the Public Safety Subcommittee of the Joint Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to add a total of two new circuit-court judicial positions rather than nine: one in Josephine County and one in Washington County beginning in January 2019, after the 2018 general election. The Oregon Judicial Department received over $600,000 General Fund dollars, in addition to its 2017–2019 biennial budget, for the cost of establishing these two new judgeships. Chief Justice Thomas Balmer testified in support of the new positions during the public hearing on the bill.

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Public Defense Services Commission Budget Passes out of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means

On June 28, 2017, the budget of the Public Defense Services Commission (PDSC), HB 5033, passed out of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means. The bill is now headed to the House and Senate floors for a vote. The recommended budget for the 2017–2019 biennium is $303,877,532 total funds, an increase from the legislatively approved budget. However, similar to a number of other agency and commission budgets passing through the legislature, this budget is below the current service level of funding, in this case by $1.6 million.

Although the budget is below the current service level, the legislature did add $4.7 million in General Funds to the PDSC budget. This funding addresses an ongoing shortfall in the current service level and should decrease the need to request appropriation of additional funds at the end of the biennium. In years past, the PDSC has found it necessary to petition the legislature for additional funds towards the end of the biennium to address a funding shortfall.

The Parent Child Representation Program, which began as a pilot program in 2014, will continue in those counties where the program has been established (Columbia, Linn, and Yamhill). But additional funding to expand the program was not added to the PDSC 2017–2019 budget.

Some policy bills that could affect the PDSC budget have been assigned to the Ways and Means Committee but have not yet been scheduled. If those bills pass out of committee, they will be addressed in the end-of-session reconciliation bills.

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Bills of Interest

      • HB 2004 – During first nine months of occupancy, prohibits landlord from terminating month-to-month tenancy within 60 days of receiving from tenant request for repairs to correct certain building, health or housing code violation or uninhabitable condition.
      • HB 2101 – Directs Legislative Counsel to prepare open government impact statement for measures that affect disclosure, or exemption from disclosure, of public records.
      • HB 2191 – Authorizes Secretary of State to investigate alleged or potential violations of business entity statutes and to require business entity to provide list of shareholders and respond to interrogatories
      • HB 2356 – Establishes requirements under which a debt buyer may bring legal action to collect a debt.
      • HB 2600 – Transfers authority over court appointed special advocates.
      • HB 2605 – Increases number of circuit court judges in certain judicial districts.
      • HB 2795 – Increases certain filing fees, motion fees, settlement conference fees, trial fees, fees for writs of garnishment, and marriage solemnization fees.
      • HB 2797 – Increases the presumptive fine for violations, including traffic violations occurring in certain locations.
      • HB 3357 – Increases amount of fees charged and collected by county clerks to record or file certain real property documents.
      • HB 5006 – Appropriates moneys from General Fund to Emergency Board for allocations during biennium.
      • HB 5013 – Appropriates moneys from the General Fund to the Judicial Department for biennial expenses.
      • HB 5033 – Appropriates moneys from the General Fund to the Public Defense Services Commission for certain biennial expenses.
      • SB 106  – Creates the Public Records Advocate and Public Records Advisory Council.
      • SB 481  – Establishes time frames for public body responses to public records requests.
      • SB 496  – Directs presiding judges of judicial districts within state to ensure proceedings before grand jury are recorded.
      • SB 505 – Directs district attorney to ensure proceedings before grand jury are recorded.
      • SB 5506 – Limits for six-year period beginning July 1, 2017, payment of expenses from fees, moneys or other revenues, including Miscellaneous Receipts, but excluding lottery funds and federal funds, collected or received by various state agencies for capital construction.

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      2017 Public Affairs Committee Members

      Kathleen Rastetter, Chair
      John Mansfield, Vice Chair
      Guy Greco
      John Bachofner
      Chris Costantino
      Rob Gratchner
      Eric Foster
      Liani Reeves

      Public Affairs Department

      Susan Grabe, Public Affairs Director
      Amy Zubko, Public Affairs Legislative Attorney
      Matt Shields, Public Affairs Staff Attorney
      Kellie Bagnani, Public Affairs Assistant

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