LITTLE ROCK — The state's trial court judges would be able to use temporary workers to replace full-time trial court assistants who retire or resign under a proposal lawmakers endorsed Monday.
LITTLE ROCK — The state’s trial court judges would be able to use temporary workers to replace full-time trial court assistants who retire or resign under a proposal lawmakers endorsed Monday.
Members of a subcommittee of the Joint Budget Committee rejected a separate measure to bolster the fund from which the assistants are paid.
Lawmakers are trying to find ways to shore up the Administration of Justice Fund in the face of dwindling revenue from court costs and fees. Gov. Mike Beebe has infused $130,000 into the fund since November of avert furloughs for about 125 trial court assistants.
Rep. Bubba Powers, D-Hope, proposed the amendment to the courts budget that would allow judges to hire temporary employees if a full-time court assistant retires or quits, but still has unpaid leave to use.
“This gives them a little breathing room,” Powers said, adding that the temporary workers would not be paid as much and would work until all financial obligations with the old employee are met and a new full-time employee can be hired.
Last year, a special task force recommended that all trial court assistants take unfunded furloughs at the end of January to help ease the budget crunch.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel offered $450,000 from a legal settlement to help keep the court assistants working through the end of the current fiscal year.
The Special Language Subcommittee also considered an amendment to the Administrative Office of the Court’s budget that would give the chief justice the option of dipping into the Bar of Arkansas account to pay the court assistants, if needed.
Tim Julian, immediate past president of the Arkansas Bar Association, spoke against the measure, saying the proposal would be akin to an “illegal exaction” because it would put the burden of paying for the trial court assistants on the backs of attorneys, when that responsibility should be on all taxpayers.
J.D. Gingrich, director of the Administrative Office of the Court, also spoke against the proposal, saying Chief Justice Jim Hannah probably would not consider using money from the fund unless it was approved by the state Bar Association.