Senate tackles FY16 budget

Thursday, May. 21, 2015
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At press time the Senate was continuing its debate of the FY16 budget. They have already taken up a number of amendments of importance to the legal community. Efforts to increase compensation rates for assigned private counsel in the Senate budget were not successful. Focus now turns to the Conference Committee, which will be appointed from both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the coming days to reach a compromised spending plan for FY16.

Last month's House budget included MBA sponsored language raising bar advocate pay in the District and Juvenile Courts effective July 1, 2016. Under the House measure, those rates would be raised from $50 to $53 for those privately appointed practitioners. Those handling Children and Family Law Cases and Care and Protection work would see an hourly rate increase from $50 to $55.

Through our work with our partners at the Equal Justice Coalition and the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) was successful in getting an additional $2.1 million in funding from the original Senate Ways and Means proposal, bringing Senate funding to $17.1 million, just $100,000 more than the House appropriation of $17 million. The MBA will voice its support for the $17.1 million with the Conference Committee.

As previously reported, the Senate allocated $633 million to the Trial Court - an increase that surpasses the court's $628 million maintenance request and would eliminate the need for Trial Court layoffs and program reductions. The House appropriated $622.5 million for the Trial Court.

Since the release of budget proposals by both Gov. Charlie Baker and the House Ways and Means Committee, the MBA has been proactive in advocating for increased funding for the Trial Court, compensation for assigned private counsel and funding for MLAC. The MBA will continue to do advocate for these measures throughout the budget process.