Omnibus bill week 2011: Florida HJR 7111

I noted that April 7 was a big day in the Florida House Judiciary Committee, with 9 separate bills affecting a wide range of elements of the judiciary. Elements of the nine, and some other bills that were not on the calendar that day, were consolidated and passed as a Committee Substitute to HJR 7111 on a party line 12-6 vote. For a news account and other details, check out this Gavel Grab post.

Structure Changes

HJR 7111 was originally going to divide the state’s Supreme Court into two entirely different courts: a Supreme Court of Civil Appeals and a Supreme Court of Criminal Appeals (see here for details). Instead, the committee substitute:

  • expands the existing 7 member court to 10
  • divides them into two panels of five (civil and criminal) each with its own chief justice, each requiring 4 justices for a quorum.
  • The three most senior justices of the existing Supreme Court would initially be assigned to the criminal division.
  • The new 10 member Court would be required to inventory all cases active at the time the court is divided and assign them to their respective divisions.
  • The justices are expressly prohibited from meeting en banc, with specific exceptions discussed below.
  • The “legislature may, by general law, otherwise provide for the administrative transfer of employees, property, duties, and functions between the divisions.”

The Chief Justice of the State of Florida

  • would alternate every four years between the two divisions
  • be chosen by the Governor with Senate confirmation (currently, the Supreme Court selects its own chief justice); however the chief justice of the civil division would be the initial Chief Justice.
  • Divisional chief justices would serve for 8 years, but to remain as a justice of the supreme court they must be re-elected to the court every 6 years.

Selection

HJR 7111 would keep the state’s judicial nomination commissions, but require for Supreme Court justices only, nominees selected by the governor be subject to senate confirmation. There is a time limit: if the Senate fails to confirm within 90 days the individual is deemed confirmed. The Yes/No retention election system for all judges would remain (there had been efforts to increase the requirement to 60% Yes vote for retention).

Rule Making

  • The justices of both divisions (7 needed for a quorum) would meet jointly to set court rules, provide administrative supervision of the courts, and handle disciplinary cases.
  • The divisions would meet jointly regarding rules or may assign categories of the rules to the divisions.
  • Rules of the judicial nominating commissions would need to be approved by a majority vote of the justices of both divisions.
  • Rules of the judicial qualifications commission would need the affirmative vote of 7 of the 10 justices.
  • Except for these rule making/administrative functions, the justices would otherwise expressly prohibited from meeting en banc.

The legislature would be able to repeal any rule adopted by the Supreme Court

  • by a majority vote (currently, requires two-thirds of legislature)
  • The court could readopt the rule, so long as it was in conformance with the expressed policy expressed in the repeal bill or resolution.
  • If the rule was repealed a second time, the Supreme Court could not readopted it
  • “The legislature shall be the final authority to determine whether an adopted rule is again repealed.”

Jurisdiction

The biggest and most obvious jurisdiction change would be the civil/criminal distinction. There is an entire section of HJR 7111 dedicated to defining the difference between a criminal and civil case for divisional purposes.

  • The civil division would expressly be prohibited from hearing any cases that had any had anything, directly or indirectly, to do with the death penalty
  • Where there was a conflict between the divisions as to whether a case was civil or criminal, the current Chief Justice of Florida would decide.
  • The legislature would be able to “further define” the cases heard by each division.
  • Only a justice in the criminal division would be allowed to issue a writ of corpus in a criminal case.
  • The divisions of the new Supreme Court would be able to take any case up from the intermediate appellate court (district courts of appeal) that is found by to be “of great public importance.”

Salary & Budget

  • Commencing in FY 2013-2014, the state’s judiciary would be given a constitutional guarantee of a “total appropriation of all fund sources to the judicial branch [] equal [to] no less than 2.25 percent of the total general revenue funds appropriated in the general appropriation bill referred to in Section 19(b) of Article III.”
  • Any adjustments via a special appropriations act would be equal to no more than the percent of total general revenue appropriations adjusted in such special appropriations act.

Other

  • The bill removes the power of the Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal to name its Clerks and Marshals.
  • Removes the Governor’s power to ask the judicial qualifications commission for all information investigations/complaints against judges.
  • The commission would still be obligated to turn such information over, on request, to the House of Representatives. All information so turned over would remain confidential during any investigation and until such information is used in the pursuit of any impeachment.

Omnibus bills affecting the courts week: 2011

With the notable exception of budget/appropriations bills, most legislation affecting the courts are handled in single subject bills that affect only selection or court jurisdiction or salary, etc. Several states have in the recent past, however, consolidated numerous other bills into one omnibus bill that affects a variety of aspects of the judiciary. This year is no exception, with such bills be introduced in at least 4 states. This week I’ll be looking at each one individually and the various and sundry elements in each.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions 2011: Western States

California SB 503 Limits to one-time written election the option of a member of the The Judges’ Retirement System II to make contributions, and receive service credit for, all of the time he or she served as a full-time subordinate judicial officer, prior to becoming a judge, excluding any period of time for which the judge is receiving, or is entitled to receive, a retirement allowance from any other public retirement system. Authorizes the judge to make contributions to, and receive service credit for, any number of whole years or all of the time he or she served as a full-time subordinate judicial officer.

Hawaii HB 1038 Amends retirement benefits for judges and other state/county employees who become members of the employees’ retirement system after June 30, 2012. Modifies extent to which prior service as a judge may be applied to other retirement system(s) and calculation of years of service for retirement purposes.

Hawaii HB 1142 Amends retirement benefits for judges and other state/county employees who become members of the employees’ retirement system after June 30, 2012. Modifies extent to which prior service as a judge may be applied to other retirement system(s) and calculation of years of service for retirement purposes.

Hawaii SB 1265 Amends retirement benefits for judges and other state/county employees who become members of the employees’ retirement system after June 30, 2012. Modifies extent to which prior service as a judge may be applied to other retirement system(s) and calculation of years of service for retirement purposes.

Hawaii SB 1341 Amends retirement benefits for judges and other state/county employees who become members of the employees’ retirement system after June 30, 2012. Modifies extent to which prior service as a judge may be applied to other retirement system(s) and calculation of years of service for retirement purposes.

Michigan HB 4223 Requires Judges Retirement System invest at least 5% in Michigan businesses.

Michigan  HB 4484 Eliminates tax exemption for judicial pensions. Provides that distributions from employer contributions, earnings on those contributions, and distributions from employee contributions and earnings on those employee contributions would be subject to state tax, as of January 1, 2012. (Currently, they are exempt from state, county, municipal, or other local taxes.) Requires an employer to contribute four percent of salary to a participant’s Tier 2 (defined contribution system) account. Allows an employee to contribute up to three percent of salary to the account and requires the employer to match the amount contributed by the employee.

Minnesota HB 1256 & SB 813 Changes member contribution rates for judicial retirement system: 8% (present – July 2011), 11% (July 2011 onward). Changes employer contribution rates for judicial retirement system: 20.5% (present – July 2011), 17.5% (July 2011 onward).

Montana HB 70 Requires separate investment fund must be maintained for judges’ retirement system apart from any other retirement system.

Montana HB 608 Closes judicial and all other retirement systems and provide for annuity benefit program for judges elected after July 2012.

Nevada SB 436 Transfers the responsibility to deposit certain money for the purpose of paying pension benefits to justices of the Supreme Court or district judges from the State of Nevada to the Court Administrator.

New Mexico HB 58 ORIGINAL: Provides that certain amounts of the civil docket and jury fees be deposited into the General Fund. Provides contributions to judicial and magistrate retirement be provided from the General Fund. Increases contributions to judicial and magistrate retirement funds. AMENDED: Same, but strikes existing law that defines “judicial retirement fund” as including” docket and jury fees of metropolitan courts, district courts, the court of appeals and the supreme court.”

New Mexico HB 468 Makes numerous temporary and permanent changes to employee and employer contribution rates for those under Judicial Retirement Act and Magistrate Retirement Act plans.

New Mexico HB 628 Makes numerous temporary and permanent changes to employee and employer contribution rates for those under Judicial Retirement Act and Magistrate Retirement Act plans.

New Mexico SB 88 Makes numerous temporary and permanent changes to employee and employer contribution rates for those under Judicial Retirement Act and Magistrate Retirement Act plans.

New Mexico SB 248 Makes numerous temporary and permanent changes to employee and employer contribution rates for those under Judicial Retirement Act and Magistrate Retirement Act plans.

New Mexico SB 268 Makes numerous temporary and permanent changes to employee and employer contribution rates for those under Judicial Retirement Act and Magistrate Retirement Act pla

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions 2011: Southern States

Alabama HB 414 Provides for increases in employee contributions for retirement to Judicial Retirement Fund:  7.25% of salary (May 2011 – October 2011); 8.4% (October 2011 – October 2012); 9% (October 2012 onward).

Florida HB 1139 & SB 290 Provides after July 2011, all judges/justices are to receive judicial retirement credit of 2% (currently 3.33%) of average final compensation for each year of creditable service as a judge/justice.

Florida HB 1405 Changes employer contribution rates for judges/justices from 20.65% to 7.26%. Reduces the disability rate for justices and judges to one third of his or her monthly compensation. AMENDED: Changes employer contribution rates for judges/justices from 20.65% to 15.19%. Establishes additional employer contribution rates for the purpose of funding the unfunded actuarial liabilities: 0.39% (effective July 2011) and 12.05% (effective July 2012). Removes reduction and maintains the current disability benefit for justices and judges.

Georgia HB 250 Provides Georgia Judicial Retirement System member who rejected survivor’s benefits may elect such benefits by paying the actuarial cost. For those becoming members allows one-time election to convert the retirement allowance otherwise payable to him or her into a modified retirement allowance of equivalent actuarial value and designate a natural person to receive. Provides for the event of death or divorce of member of system and for the payment of the remainder of a member’s accumulated contributions.

Georgia HB 344 Provides juvenile court judges and other members of Georgia Judicial Retirement System may obtain creditable service for prior service as a full-time associate juvenile court judge.

Georgia HB 533 Permits transfer of funds from the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia to the Georgia Judicial Retirement System by judges and to obtain creditable service. Expands transfer of funds authority to include juvenile court judges.

Georgia HB 542 Permits transfer of funds from the Georgia Judicial Retirement System to the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia and to obtain creditable service. Expands transfer of funds authority to include juvenile court judges.

Kentucky HB 480 ORIGINAL: Requires members of the Judicial Form Retirement System and other specified retirement systems who are not subject to legislative or judicial branch code of ethics shall be subject to the executive branch code of ethics. Requires the audit of the Judicial Form Retirement System by the Auditor of Public Accounts at least once every five years and require the system to pay all costs of the audit. Prohibits members of the Judicial Form Retirement System from serving more than three consecutive terms of office on the board and prohibits the board chairman from serving more than six consecutive years as chairman. Prohibits assets of the Judicial Form Retirement System from being used to pay placement agents. Requires the Judicial Form Retirement System to make system expenditures and employee salaries available on a Web site. Establishes conflict-of-interest provisions applicable to trustees and employees of the Kentucky Judicial Form Retirement System. AMENDED: Deletes measures affecting the Judicial Form Retirement System board term limits, board chair term limits, expand or establish conflicts of interest requirements for board members and employees of the board; require the Auditor of Public Accounts to conduct the system financial audit.

Kentucky SB 2 Closes Judicial Retirement Plan to new members effective July 1, 2012. Allows those in Judicial Retirement Plan with less than 5 years of service to transfer their membership and account balance to the Public Employees Retirement System.

Maryland SB 6 Provides that, on or after July 1, 2011, an individual not already a member of the Judges’ Retirement System may not join.

Maryland SB 735 Provides that, on or after July 1, 2011, an individual not already a member of the Judges’ Retirement System may not join.

Mississippi HB 464 & SB 2154 Includes all remuneration or amounts paid (except mileage allowance) to Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the Court of Appeals as “earned compensation” for retirement fund purposes.

Oklahoma HB 1005 Creates the Task Force on Pension Benefit Funding and Security to examine Judges and Justice Retirement System and other systems.

Oklahoma HB 1006 Creates Task Force on Pension Benefit Funding and Security to examine judge’s retirement system and other retirement systems.

Oklahoma HB 1010 AS AMENDED: Modifies provisions related to normal retirement age for members entering the Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges on or after January 1, 2012. Eliminates the provision whereby a member with 8 years of judicial service may retire when the sum of their age and years of service equals or exceeds 80. Decreases the multiplier used to calculate the retirement benefit for members entering  on or after January 1, 2012 from 4% to 2%.

Oklahoma HB 2057 Prohibits cost of living adjustment for Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges unless system has a funded ratio which equals or exceeds85%

Oklahoma HB 2132 Modifies judicial and other retirement systems funding ratios and cost of living adjustments. Changes the definition of a “nonfiscal retirement bill” by removing the provision that allows a cost-of-living increase to be considered nonfiscal. Stipulates that any retirement bill having a fiscal impact is subject to the statutory requirements related to concurrent funding.

Oklahoma SB 53 Eliminates provision allowing up to five years of prior military service to be entered as credit towards the Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges.

Oklahoma SB 310 Creates the Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges Reform Act of 2011 (placeholder).

Oklahoma SB 311 Creates the Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges Reform Act of 2011 (placeholder).

Oklahoma SJR 19 (Constitutional Amendment) Requires the Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges to have a funded ratio which equals or exceeds 90%.

South Carolina HB 3568 & SB 531 Closes state retirement system for judges and solicitors to future judges and requires they enroll in state’s retirement investment plan instead.

Tennessee HB 1622SB 1498 Revises retirement provisions for general sessions judges from Group 1 to Group 4 level.

Texas HB 390 & SB 1223 Modifies service retirement annuity for appellate judges under the Judicial Retirement System Plan Two.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions 2011: Midwestern States

Illinois HB 146 Caps the highest salary for annuity purposes, final rate of earnings, final average compensation, and final average salary for current members, participants, and participating employees of the Judges’ Retirement System at $106,800 (Current Circuit Judge’s Salary: $178,835), Authorizes that amount to be annually increased by the lesser of 3% or one-half of the annual percentage increase in the consumer price index-u. Requires employee contributions to also be based on these capped amounts.

Illinois HB 1447 Provides that, for persons who first become participants of Judges’ Retirement System after the effective date of the Act: (i) the automatic annual increases in participant and survivor annuities shall be at the rate of 3% or one-half the annual unadjusted percentage increase (but not less than zero) in the consumer price index-u, whichever is less, of the originally granted retirement annuity (rather than at the rate of 3% or the annual unadjusted percentage increase in the consumer price index-u, whichever is less, of the annuity then being paid) and (ii) the annual increases in highest salary for annuity purposes and final average salary shall be at the rate of the lesser of 3% or one-half the annual unadjusted percentage increase (but not less than zero) in the consumer price index-u (rather than at the rate of the lesser of 3% or the annual unadjusted percentage increase in the consumer price index-u).

Illinois HB 1959 Allows persons who first became or become members of Judges’ Retirement System on or after January 1, 2011 to elect to participate in a self-managed program of retirement benefits instead of the program of reformed retirement benefits currently offered. Provides that a self-managed plan shall authorize a participant to accumulate assets for retirement through a combination of employer and employee contributions that may be invested at the participant’s direction in mutual funds, collective investment funds, or other investment products and used to purchase annuity contracts. Requires the Judges’ Retirement System to make the self-managed plan available within 6 months after the effective date of the Act. Provides that, to the extent that the changes made by the Act are determined to be a new benefit increase under the new benefit increase provisions, the changes are exempt from the 5-year expiration provision.

Illinois HR 31 Urges the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to (i) competitively bid for an auditing firm to conduct an audit of the Judges’ Retirement System and all other State-funded Pension and Retirement Systems, (ii) report the auditing firm’s findings to the General Assembly and Governor within 1 year after the adoption of the resolution, and (iii) publish the auditing firm’s findings on the COGFA website.

Illinois HR 101 Directs the Auditor General to conduct an audit of the Judges’ Retirement System and all other State-funded retirement systems to discover (i) what the anticipated savings to those systems will be as a result of the pension reforms enacted last year and (ii) whether any employees or officers of those systems have made false or materially misleading public statements about those anticipated savings.

Illinois HR 149 Directs Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability study the impact of time and interest on the underfunding of the Judges’ Retirement System and all other State-funded retirement systems.

Illinois SB 29 For those already members of Judges’ Retirement System, adds provisions concerning the annuity rate of accrual, annuity calculations, automatic annual increases, and survivors’ annuities. With respect to later entrants (members who first become members on or after July 1, 2011), adds provisions concerning creditable service, conditions for eligibility, amount of annuities, automatic annual increases, survivors’ annuities, and refunds. Defines “salary”, “earnings”, “compensation”, and “wages” for periods of service on and after July 1, 2011 for any Judges’ Retirement System member.

Illinois SR 83 Urges the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to (i) competitively bid for an auditing firm to conduct an audit of the Judges’ Retirement System and all other State-funded Pension and Retirement Systems, (ii) report the auditing firm’s findings to the General Assembly and Governor within 1 year after the adoption of the resolution, and (iii) publish the auditing firm’s findings on the COGFA website.

Indiana HB 1048 Establishes a defined contribution plan (plan) as an option for new state employees. A state employee who does not elect to become a member of the plan becomes a member of the public employees’ retirement fund (PERF). Requires the PERF board of trustees (PERF board) to establish the same investment options for the plan that are available for the investment of a PERF member’s annuity savings account. Provides that a member’s contribution to the plan is 3% of the member’s compensation and is paid by the state on behalf of the member. Provides that the state’s employer contribution rate for the plan is equal to the state’s employer contribution rate for PERF. Provides that the amount credited from the employer’s contribution rate to the member’s account shall not be greater than PERF’s normal cost with any amount not credited to the member’s account applied to PERF’s unfunded accrued liability. Establishes a minimum state employer contribution of 3% of the members’ compensation. Establishes a five year vesting schedule for employer contributions, and requires a member who terminates state employment before the member is fully vested to forfeit amounts that are not vested. Requires that the PERF board specify by rule the interest rate credited to a participant’s contributions for the judges’ retirement system. Provides that a judge or a magistrate who is a participant in the judges’ retirement system and who purchases prior PERF service credit waives credit for the PERF service only for the amount of PERF service purchased.  Urges the legislative council to assign to the pension management oversight commission the study of whether to create a defined contribution plan as an option for new employees of political subdivisions that participate in PERF and for new employees who are eligible to become members of the teachers’ retirement fund.

Indiana SB 12 Requires, after December 31, 2011, that an employer of participants in the judges’ retirement system submit contributions, reports, and records electronically. Authorizes the PERF board of trustees to establish due dates for contributions, reports, and records submitted by an employer.

Indiana SB 76 Requires that the board of trustees of the public employees’ retirement fund (PERF) specify by rule the interest rate credited to a participant’s contributions for: the judges’ retirement system. Provides that a judge or a magistrate who is a participant in the judges’ retirement system and who purchases prior service credit in PERF waives credit for the PERF service only for the amount of PERF service purchased.

Indiana SB 549 Establishes the Indiana public retirement system (system) to administer and manage judges’ retirement fund, public employees’ retirement fund, and either other funds. Provides that each retirement fund continues as a separate fund managed by the board. Creates a nine member board of trustees (board) for the system appointed by the governor (none need be judges). Establishes transition provisions for trustees/boards of other existing systems. Provides that new hires of the system become public employees’ retirement fund members, unless the system director expressly determines otherwise. Allows the board to establish contribution rate groups for PERF, and removes the requirement that each employer have a separate account within the retirement allowance account.

Nebraska LB 251 Increases court fees by $20. Directs some of additional funds to Retirement Fund for Judges.

Nebraska LB 509 Modifies language in the Judges Retirement Act to clarify that members receive the highest cost-of-living (COLA) method identified in current statutes. Creates new section in the Judges’ Retirement Act that reorganizes current cost-of-living provisions and places all the existing language into one section.

Nebraska LB 679 Provides all new judges elected/appointed after July 1, 2011 are members of the State Employees Retirement System (i.e the State Cash
Balance Plan,) instead of the current judges defined benefit plan.

North Dakota SB 2108 ORIGINAL: For judge’s retirement system, requires member contributions increase by one percent of the judge’s monthly salary beginning with the monthly reporting period of January 2012, and increase annually thereafter by an additional one percent, with the final increase taking place beginning with the reporting period of January 2015. AMENDED: Same, but changes January 2015 date to January 2013.

Wisconsin AB 11 (Special Session) (For prior blog post on subject, see here)

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions 2011: Northeastern States

Maine HB 425 Establishes an option for new employees hired on or after July 1, 2012 to become members of the Judicial Retirement Program. Provides current members may make a onetime, irrevocable election to remain as members.

Massachusetts HB 2431 Provides survivors of judges who die “in the performance of his/her duties” are to receive maximum retirement benefits as if judge were fully vested, etc. Defines “in the performance of his/her duties” as including judicial assignments in any courthouse or other venue, such as hospitals or jails, used to conduct judicial business; to Emergency Judicial Response System assignments; to approved voluntary or assigned education programs or other assignment within the scope of his/her employment as a judge or justice.

Massachusetts HB 2965 Modifies retirement earnings and benefits of certain senior justices.

Massachusetts HB 2978 Provides for judges who reach mandatory retirement age shall receive automatic inflation adjustments to annual pensions.

New Hampshire HB 299 Allows the annual contribution for unfunded accrued liability of the judicial retirement plan to be calculated over a 30-year period or the maximum period allowed, whichever is less.

New Hampshire HB 492 Establishes a deferred retirement option in the judicial retirement plan. Modifies benefits related to service of certain judges of probate retiring because of permanent disability.

New Jersey AB 3796 & SB 2705 Increases employee contribution rates in Judicial Retirement System (JRS) to 8.5% of salary (up from 3%). Provides additional 5.5% not being used to reduce the statutorily required employer normal contribution. Provides increases to be implemented in a manner to conform to State Constitution prohibition against the reduction in the compensation of a judge during the judge’s term of appointment.

New Jersey SB 2696 Restructures Judicial Retirement System (JRS) and other Retirement Systems. Changes contribution rate to JRS and authorizes JRS board to make future changes.

Rhode Island HB 5840 Eliminates the cost-of-living retirement adjustments for all judges, teachers, and state employees and their surviving spouses or domestic partners who are hired on or after the effective date of act.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions Week: 2011

Around this time last year, I ran a special series for a week of posts related to judicial retirement plans/pensions (see here). It was so remarkably well received I have decided to do it again this year, starting today with the Northeastern states, followed by Midwestern, Southern, and Western each day.