HB 1337 Passes House

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I am pleased to announce that as its first vote, upon returning from summer recess, the State House passed HB 1337 yesterday by a vote of 198-0! Once approved by the Senate and the Governor, the bill will provide increased funding for legal services. It was not amended other than the friendly amendment that was first adopted when the House Judiciary Committee reported the bill out.

The bill does two things:

  1. It adds one dollar to the Access to Justice Act filing fee, which would make a total of $4 in filing fees to support legal services. The additional dollar is valued annually at about $2.5 million.  Note this would result in $2 of fees valued at $2.5 million each and it would leave in place the original $2 filing fee, which generates a higher level of revenues because the original $2 fee includes traffic offenses, whereas the more recent fee does not.
     
  2. It eliminates the sunset on the most recent $1 and there would be no sunset on the new $1. This means that there would be no sunset on $2 of our fees but we would still have a sunset on the original $2 fee. Presently, the original $2 fee is scheduled to sunset in four years (there have been sunset extensions) and the supplemental $1 of several years ago is scheduled to sunset the end of 2014. The elimination of the sunsets is of interest to the legislature and to legal services alike as the sunsets have created a need for nearly constant legislative activity, just to keep in place the support already approved by the legislature.

We expect support from the Governor and the Senate. Their action will be needed before the bill becomes law.

Please be sure to thank all members of the House, as they voted for this bill. And especially thank Rep. Tara Toohil, the prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Glen Grell, who was active on the bill, and Majority Leader Turzai, who shepherded the bill to a vote.