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Oregon Judicial Department Budget Passes Legislature
In the waning days of the 2019 legislative session, the Senate and House passed the 2019–2021 budget for the Oregon Judicial Department. The budget, contained within Senate Bill 5513 and a number of other bills, provided funding to address many of the department’s needs.
Staffing – A priority for the Oregon Judicial Department this session has been the restoration of funding for staff positions throughout the state. Senate Bill 5513 restores funding for 80 vacant positions. In addition, the legislature approved nine new positions to support the implementation of SB 24 and SB 973. These two bills provide support and services for people with serious mental illness and substance addictions.
Judges – Under two of the end-of-session bills, HB 5050 and HB 2377, the legislature added two judgeships, one in Jackson County and one in Marion County with funding for support staff. Further, judicial compensation will be increased by $5,000 beginning on July 1, 2020.
Legislature Provides Funding for Six Courthouse Projects
Since the 2011 legislative session, the Oregon Judicial Department and the Oregon Legislature have worked together to rehabilitate, update, and replace courthouses throughout the state. This biennium, the legislature provided bonding authority for five courthouses:
- Lane County ($87.6 million)
- Clackamas County ($31.5 million)
- Linn County ($15.9 million)
- Multnomah County ($8.5 million for furnishings)
- Oregon Supreme Court Building ($27.8 million)
In addition, the legislature provided $2 million in General Fund dollars for planning for the new Benton County Courthouse.
Legislature Creates New Funding Source for State Court Technology Fund
Since the implementation of Oregon eCourt, the Oregon Judicial Department and the Oregon Legislature have explored and utilized a variety of funding sources. These include civil filing fees and funds from the Criminal Fine Account, which are deposited in the State Court Technology Fund to fund the Oregon eCourt program.
Criminal Fine Account – Under HB 5029, just under $4 million are allocated to the State Court Technology Fund for Oregon eCourt. This is a 25 percent increase over the 2017–2019 approved legislative budget.
Increase in Filing Fees – HB 3447 increases most civil filing fees by six percent. Examples include filing, motion, settlement conference, trial, document, and marriage solemnization fees. The increase in filing fees will go into effect on October 1, 2019. Almost $300,000 of the increase will be directed to the State Court Technology Fund this biennium with the remainder deposited into the state’s General Fund.
Case Initiation Fees – This year, in addition to utilizing the funding sources identified above, the legislature passed House Bill 2241, which authorizes the chief justice to collect case initiation fees from public bodies and local governments. These funds are also deposited in the State Court Technology Fund. The legislature expects $2.4 million to be raised by this bill, allowing Oregon eCourt to be fully funded for the biennium. The bill goes into effect upon passage.
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Legal Aid Receives First Increase in State Funding Since 2011
Since 2011, funding for legal aid has been a static statutory allocation. At the beginning of the 2019 legislative session, the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors introduced SB 358 in support of civil legal-aid providers in Oregon. The goal of the bill was to increase the amount of state funding for civil legal-aid services and create a biannual funding increase.
This year, after discussions with advocates and the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, funding for civil legal-aid services was incorporated into the Oregon Judicial Department budget (SB 5513). As a result of moving civil legal-aid funding into the OJD budget, the Legal Services Program, which provides fiscal and regulatory oversight to Oregon’s civil legal-aid providers, will distribute approximately $400,000 in additional funding this biennium to legal-aid providers. This is the first increase in state statutory funding in almost a decade.
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Thank You to the Citizens Campaign for Court Funding
Throughout the legislative session, the Citizens Campaign for Court Funding, a coalition of lawyers, community members, nonprofits, and businesses located throughout Oregon, advocated for adequate funding for the Oregon Judicial Department.
Thank you to everyone who contacted legislators, testified in Salem, and participated in the Oregon State Bar’s Day at the Capitol!
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2019 Public Affairs Committee Members
Eric Foster, Chair
Eddie Medina, Vice Chair
Public Affairs Department
Susan Grabe, Public Affairs Director
Amy Zubko, Public Affairs Legislative Attorney
Matt Shields, Public Affairs Staff Attorney
Kellie Baumann, Public Affairs Assistant