06 June 2007

Committee action, Jun. 6: HB 731, SB 127, SB 295

Finally, after a few years of carping, the Senate seems to have listened to me, at least in terms of audio, by making live broadcasts available in all Senate committee rooms. Most notorious in its absence was Room F, the regular meeting place of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. So I finally can cover this committee, and do so below.

HB 731 would raise judges’ salaries in the state. House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Hunter Greene wanted to know the impact the increases would affect the part-time city judges who are allowed to practice law on the side. Author Rep. Rick Farrar, who argued increases were long-due, said 45 of 73 are, and defended letting them practice to the extent they could up to the district court salary as permitted by law.

The bill was reported favorably without objection by substitute.

SB 127 would amend the Constitution to require the state to have an identifiable revenue source to fund increases in benefits to those in retirement systems. Supporters argued that with the large unfunded accrued liabilities in the accounts that this was crucial to getting the accounts in order and disingenuous to those who are system members.

Rep. Jeff Arnold was concerned about the costs to the state and wanted to refer it to the Appropriations Committee – tantamount to killing the bill since Appropriations already had dealt with budget issues. But, he agreed to let the bill pass out without referral yet warned it would be a matter presented on the floor.

The House Retirement Committee voted without objection favorable approval.

SB 295 would dramatically increase the salaries of state senators and legislative assistants. Author Sen. Derrick Shepherd argued the nature of the jobs demanded essentially full-time pay for these positions. In fact, he went further, accepting an amendment to apply provisions to the entire Legislature and to increase even further the pay of assistants.

The bill was reported with amendments by the Senate and Governmental Affiars Committee favorably without objection.

Thanks from Sen. Boasso lite
Rep. Mike Walsworth, in presenting SB 127 to committee.

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