I mentioned last week the Massachusetts’ House passing major revisions to the way the
state’s (excuse me, commonwealth’s as someone corrected me after last week’s post) courts are governed. HB 3395 is having a tough slog in the Senate, however.
First, the Senate Ways & Means Committee opted to replace it with a new bill (SB 1907) which, while apparently adopting most of the text of HB 3395, does make some major additional changes with respect to the judiciary’s control and operation of the probation department.
Additionally, according Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly‘s The Docket, the 4 Senate Republicans (out of 40 Senators) wanted additional amendments added onto the bill once it reached the floor today, many of which were approved. Among the dozen amendments were:
Amendment #3: Require the trial court chief justice to provide the Legislature with a cost and budgetary analysis of the proposed reorganization’s impact prior to implementation
Amendment #4: Provide for an annual independent audit of the trial court by the State Auditor and Inspector General, beginning in 2013
Amendment #5: Allow for use of credit cards to pay all court fees/fines with processing surcharge
Amendment #6: Require the advisory committee on personnel standards to use merit-based standards for hiring court personnel, and to post these standards on the trial court’s website
Amendment #8: Require applicants for any trial court position to be certified as meeting the merit-based considerations for employment prior to the consideration of any letters of recommendation submitted on behalf of the applicant
Amendment #9: Expand the membership of the proposed advisory board charged with offering recommendations on the management of the probation office to include an active member of the Massachusetts Bar and an experienced probation officer
Amendment #18: Require the trial court chief justice and the court administrator to submit a report to the Legislature 90 days before the temporary closure or relocation of any courthouse
Amendment #2: Allow for the transfer of funds within the trial court
Amendment #14: Strikes “An officer or employee whose appointment is subject to this section may be removed for cause by the appointing authority. Every removal of an officer or employee whose appointment was subject to this section shall be reviewed by the [advisory committee on personnel standards], and no such removal shall be final until approved by the [advisory committee on personnel standards]. If any such officer or employee has served 3 full years in a position, appointment to which is subject to the provisions of this section, the officer or employee shall have the right to appear personally before the [advisory committee on personnel standards] before the committee reaches its decision as to whether or not to affirm the officer’s or employee’s removal.” to read “Subject to the terms of applicable collective bargaining agreements, any officer or employee whose appointment is subject to the provisions of this section may be removed by the appointing authority, in accordance with the standards promulgated by the committee.”
In addition to the GOP amendments, several Democratic ones were proposed and adopted, including one by the Senate Judiciary Committee chair (Amendment #17) that would alter the effective dates for various provisions in the bill.
The bill, as amended, was approved and sent back to the House on a 39-0 vote.