Wyoming: Legislature approves court information technology equipment bill; provides whether judiciary or counties are responsible

Earlier this week the Wyoming legislature approved SF 24, an attempt to specify the responsibilities for court information technology equipment between the state judicial branch and county governments.

Key elements of the bill include:

  1. Defines “Court information technology equipment” (hardware equipment located in state court facilities necessary to meet, but not exceed, court information technology equipment standards adopted by the board of judicial policy and administration)
  2. Defines “State court facility” to include circuit and district courtrooms, circuit and district court jury rooms, circuit and district court judges’ chambers and the offices of circuit court clerks. Wyoming does have municipal courts, but these are not discussed.
  3. Implementation of court information technology equipment that requires alteration of a county building requires consultation with the board of county commissioners or the board’s appointed designee.
  4. The supreme court shall install court information technology equipment in all state court facilities in a phased approach. Upon installation of court information technology equipment in a state court facility, the supreme court shall maintain and support the equipment installed by the supreme court.
  5. Each county shall provide and maintain infrastructure to ensure the proper function of court information technology equipment including, but not limited to, requisite power outlets, network drops, audio and visual drops and associated wiring for connectivity of all endpoints and peripherals associated with court information technology equipment.

SF 24 now goes to the governor.

Wyoming: SJR 4 clears committee, would limit judiciary’s power in K-12 finance suits; courts could declare legislature violated constitution but could not order any action to generate revenue to pay for schools

As discussed here, a constitutional amendment to strip state courts of power in K-12 funding lawsuits have not advanced out of the Senate Education Committee.

SJR 4 contains three key sections.

  1. The legislature alone is to decide funding levels and to “rationally determine” what those levels are.
  2. The legislature alone is to equitably allocate funding among the school districts in order to have adequate, thorough and efficient schools.
  3. The judiciary may declare a system of public school funding in violation of the constitution, but cannot order the legislature to take any action to generate revenue, through taxation or otherwise in order to fulfill its duties to fully fund the public school system.

Wyoming: Efforts to strip state courts of jurisdiction to hear K-12 funding lawsuits reintroduced; courts could declare funding system unconstitutional but could not order more funding

Last year the Wyoming Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would have prohibited courts from hearing K-12 funding lawsuits brought under the state constitution’s clause that the legislature is to “create and maintain a thorough and efficient system of public schools.” In 2018 several constitutional amendments were filed in this area, with one advancing to committee.

SJR 4 as filed was allowed to be introduced (normally, sessions in even number years are limited to budget issues only, but the House or Senate can vote to allow other items in). The constitutional amendment contains three key sections.

  1. The legislature alone is to decide funding levels and to “rationally determine” what those levels are
  2. The legislature alone is to equitably allocate funding among the school districts in order to have adequate, thorough and efficient schools
  3. The judiciary may declare a system of public school funding in violation of the constitution, but cannot order the legislature to take any action to generate revenue, through taxation or otherwise in order to fulfill its duties to fully fund the public school system.

SJR 4 is similar to HJR 9, which failed to advance to committee. I simply declared no court could order/require imposition of any tax or tax increase, nor require any other provision of funding for schools beyond what the legislature approved.

Arizona: statewide court security funding put into state budget & passed; similar moves occurred in Minnesota (2016) & Wyoming (2014)

Portions of a bill to provide court security funding for Arizona courthouses discussed here and apparently killed has come back as part of the state’s budget.

SB 1161 created a Arizona Statewide Court Security Fund which was to have been administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts and used for “assistance, training and grants to courts to meet minimum standards of courthouse security that are adopted by the supreme court.Funding would come from an apparently 2% increase on all court fees.

SB 1161 was subject to a “strike everything” amendment in the House that removed all existing language, the “new” SB 1161 instead focused on water improvement districts.

Now, an appropriation has been made as part of SB 1525 (criminal justice budget reconciliation) to the Arizona AOC using much the same language as SB 1161.

The sum of $750,000 is appropriated from the judicial collection enhancement fund established by section 12-113, Arizona Revised Statutes, in fiscal year 2017-2018 to the administrative office of the courts for the purposes of providing assistance, training and grants to courts to meet the minimum standards of courthouse security that are adopted by the Arizona supreme court.

The use of a budget appropriation, rather than a standalone bill, also occurred in Minnesota in 2016. That state’s omnibus supplemental budget bill (HF 2749) included appropriation language.

$1,000,000 For a competitive grant program established by the chief justice for the distribution of safe and secure courthouse fund grants to government entities responsible for providing or maintaining a courthouse or other facility where court proceedings are held. Grant recipients must provide a 50 percent nonstate match. This is a onetime appropriation and is available until June 30, 2019.

The Arizona move is also similar to what occurred in Wyoming in 2014 where a standalone bill (SB 14) to create a Court Security Fund overseen by a Court Security Commission evolved into an appropriation/allocation in the state’s budget (Section 328 of HB 1) .

Wyoming: state legislature increases court automation fee from $10 to $25

Wyoming’s governor has signed into law HB 192 which raises the state’s court automation fee from $10 to $25. The House version increased the fee from $10 to $20. The Senate version increased the fee from $10 to $25 and exempted state agencies from the fee increase until July 2018.

It was the Senate version that was ultimately enacted.

The fee is added based on various filings (probate, appellate, civil, etc.) as well as on criminal convictions. The fee was created and set at $10 in 2000 with the proceeds going to a judicial systems automation account (W.S. 5–2–120) and is used by the supreme court for the purchase, maintenance and operation of computer hardware and software to enhance the communication, records and management needs of the courts.

The law goes into effect on July 1, 2017.

 

Wyoming: Effort to strip state courts of jurisdiction to hear K-12 funding lawsuits killed in House; Senate had approved 26-4.

A plan to strip Wyoming state courts of the power to hear lawsuits involving state constitutional provisions related to K-12 funding has been rejected in a House committee.

SJR 9 had cleared the Senate on a 26-4 vote earlier this month (as discussed here) and would have amended the state’s constitution to specify that “the legislature determines” the “necessary” level of funding and taxation for the schools. It also would have expressly prohibited courts from ordering funding changes.

No court shall order, enjoin or otherwise require the imposition of any tax or tax increase, nor require any other provision of funding beyond those means and amounts prescribed by law to carry into effect the provisions of this section.

The constitutional amendment was then sent to the House Education committee which yesterday voted 9-0 against.

 

Plans to link executive/legislative salaries to judges rejected in Indiana & Wyoming

Plans to tie the salaries of legislative and executive branch officials to judges have been rejected in both Indiana and Wyoming.

The Indiana plan, discussed here, builds on an existing plan that links the salaries of state legislators to judges. Under SB 60 as introduced, that link would have been extended to include top executive branch officials. The version that came out of committee and was approved by the Senate asks for a study committee to be formed to look at these salaries instead.

The Wyoming plan, HB 175 as discussed here, made linkages between top executive branch officials and judicial salaries. The amended version removed any reference to links and instead put in exact amounts (i.e. Governor = $113,000). Even with the amendment, the plan died in the House Committee of the Whole.