Except that the vote may not actually happen today. The state Senate is tentatively scheduled, under what one staffer termed a “best case scenario,” to start considering budget bills after 5 p.m. And really, when’s the last time a best-case scenario materialized in Sacramento? The state Assembly hasn’t even scheduled a vote yet.
What they'll fight about, when they start fighting about it ...
Whenever the debate actually begins, lawmakers will finally take up SB 13xxxx (.pdf), the lucky number assigned to the courts’ budget trailer bill. The 27-page eye-glazer doesn’t appear to contain any surprises:
- There’s language authorizing the AOC to close California courts one day each month. The closure would be considered a judicial holiday.
- Court security fees go up $10, security fees rise $10 and certain post-judgment fees will be an extra $10.
- Judges who voluntarily give up 4.62 percent of their pay in solidarity with furloughed court workers won’t sacrifice their future pension levels.
- Sheriffs and courts “shall negotiate” a 4.62 percent cut in contract costs for security. If there’s no agreement reached within the first 30 days of the first courthouse closure day, the contract payment “shall” be reduced automatically by 4.62 percent. (We look forward to seeing how this provision works out in the coming weeks.).
- The public will have expanded — or at least explicitly stated — access to courts’ baseline budget figures, employee salaries and copies of contracts with private vendors.
The rest of the budget language is still dribbling out to the public. We already know that a bill creating a new “civil Gideon” program for poor litigants was gutted as part of the budget deal. And we know that the judiciary’s annual cost-of-living adjustment, better known by its jargony acronym SAL, is gone indefinitely. And we know that California’s prison system will lose more than $1 billion; just where those controversial cuts will come from won’t be decided until next month.
What we don’t know yet is how many lawsuits will be filed after lawmakers finally do pass a budget fix. Los Angeles County is already drafting the briefs, angered by the state’s take of more than $4 billion in “local” money. Unions are ready to go to court over three state worker furlough days in the budget. And a former education official is challenging the state’s two-thirds vote requirement on budgets.
The budget may reflect an economy that’s in the tank, but at least, it seems, it will spawn a whole lot of legal work.
— Cheryl Miller
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