BILL TO UPDATE COURT SHARING RULES PASSED COMMITTEE

Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to help municipalities cut costs by giving them the flexibility to eliminate unnecessary positions after merging municipal courts today was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The bill (S-2233) is part of a legislative effort to give municipalities additional tools to reduce costs and make it possible to live within the statutory 2 percent cap on local property tax increases, which takes effect next year.

“If we ever expect to put a stop to upward-spiraling property taxes, we must give municipal officials the necessary tools to keep costs down,” said Senator Van Drew. “While we recognize there is much more to do, this measure will help to loosen the stranglehold current laws have on local governments that prevent them from running as efficiently as they should.”

The bill would allow for the early termination of appointed municipal judges, public defenders and prosecutors when two or more municipalities consolidate municipal court functions. Under current law, municipal judges are appointed to a statutorily mandated three-year term, and municipal public defenders and prosecutors are appointed for one-year terms.

“Mayors and local officials looking to rein in spending by merging court services are faced with a statutory roadblock that forces them to take on unneeded appointees,” said Van Drew. “This bill will allow them to eliminate unnecessary positions so they can actually achieve the cost savings that makes consolidating services worthwhile.”

The measure was approved by a vote of 9-0-1. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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