With the continued recession and shaky economic outlook in the state, the legislature was forced to cut more than $650 million in the FY 2002 budget. It's no secret that the courts have been hit hard. In fact, more than $20 million in cuts were made. There are a number of efforts under way to restore these reductions and stop any further decline in the upcoming FY 2003 budget.
Early-retirement legislation passed in late December will relieve some of the pressure to lay off approximately 1,500 state employees.
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) did not fall victim to the wide-sweeping cuts and was level funded.
Late last month, Acting-Gov. Jane Swift released her recommendations for the FY 2003 budget, which included approximately $20 million in cuts to the trial court. The Committee for Public Counsel Service is facing a $700,000 cut. MLAC has been saved thus far and was level funded.
The governor's proposal is the first step in a long and arduous budget process. The budget must now go through both branches of the legislature and back to the governor for approval. The final FY 2003 budget is due by July 3, 2002.
The House of Representatives passed sentencing-guidelines legislation in October that included an MBA proposal for post-release supervision. Recently there has been significant media attention surrounding mandatory post-release supervision following a report released by MassInc. and an announcement by Swift that she would file a package making supervision mandatory for those released from state prisons or county jails.
Legislation to reform sentencing laws now awaits action in the Senate. With formal legislative sessions ending in July, Senate Pres. Thomas Birmingham has indicated that sentencing reform is a priority.