Monday, January 12, 2009

A surprising early contender for the Legislative Loon Award

State Sen. Jonathan Paton (R-LD30) is as conservative as they come in the AZ lege, but he's also intelligent and hard-working, and usually avoids heavy-duty involvement with most of the loonier items to come out of the lege.

Which makes his sponsorship of SB1069 almost bewildering.

This bill, which has already gone through First Reading in the Senate, would impact Justice Court fees. In Arizona, Justice Courts handle a lot of 'minor' matters such as evictions, misdemeanor DUIs, traffic tickets, small claims cases and the like.

'Minor' = not minor to the people affected, but not felonies or high-dollar lawsuits either.

His bill would remove the supreme court's authority to adjust Justice Court fees, a power that is currently limited to the change in the national consumer price index.

Specifically the bill deletes Section 1.F of ARS 22-281 -

F. The supreme court may increase the fees prescribed in subsection A of this section in an amount not to exceed the per cent of change in the average consumer price index as published by the United States department of labor, bureau of labor statistics between that figure for the latest calendar year and the calendar year in which the last fee increase occurred.

So...did somebody hit Sen. Paton with a Stupid stick? What possible rationalization could he have for throwing down on the entire Judicial branch? I understand that standard Republican position that all taxes and government fees are bad, but Justice Court fees already have stringent limits on their growth. Why pick this fight?

Of course, if this is rooted in some anti-tax/fee ideology, we can expect a bill with provisions that similarly eviscerates a county sheriff's ability to create or increase fees charged to prisoners in his jail. (That's you, Joe Arpaio.)


And before somebody protests that the Sheriff's jail is a county function that shouldn't be subject to interference by the state lege, I'd like to point out one thing -

Justice Courts are just as much a county function as county jails.



Desert Beacon said...

To let you know that AZ is not the only place with the Loonies, NV has a throwback Assemblyman who is dragging the motorcycle helmet law back out of its well deserved oblivion, and want 2nd Amendment supporting license plates....
After the announcement by Lt. Governor Krolicki that he was interested in Reid's Senate seat, the subsequent announcement that he was indicted on four felony counts rather put the kibosh on that candidacy. The timeline makes it apparent that Krolicki knew the indictment was coming down before he announced his interest. I'm not sure who that leaves as a serious contender, because the word is out that the "gentleman's agreement" between Ensign and Reid expires in 2010.

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Kim said...

“Throwing down the entire judicial branch” are you serious? SB1069 does not throw down the entire judicial branch. To understand this bill you need to review the history behind this issue (HB2210 in 2008). Last session the Supreme Court negotiated a 44% fee increase with Governor Napolitano to be included in the budget. In addition the Courts and Governor Napolitano padded their own retirement by siphoning off a portion of the fees to fund the “Elected Official Retirement Fund”. Senator Paton’s bill simply requires the Court to ask the legislature for future fee increases not allow them to operate on auto-pilot. The Court’s have always had to go to the Legislature for all fee increases until state statutes were amended last session as part of the despicable state budget. This bill simply returns the Courts to business as usual, a process that has successfully been in place for many years and requires them to justify their fee increases to the Legislature and the citizens of Arizona.

cpmaz said...

Kim - I'm unfamiliar with the history you cited, so if I've misread the bill, then I'll correct my post.

However, the current bill looks pretty clear - it removes some limited judicial branch autonomy to determine legal fees and leaves that authority (and the courts' fiscal solvency) to the tender mercies of the lege.

Melanie M said...

SB1069 does not limit the Sherriff from increasing fees; they are not impacted at all. As a matter of fact the Sheriff and Constable’s are required to ask the legislature for fee increases (as are virtually all Governmental agencies) which they routinely do. Why should the courts be exempted from this process of checks and balances? Thank you Senator Paton for looking out for your constituents!