Trial Court Funding Sunset Extension Heads to Senate Days Before Expiration

Posted on April 23, 2024 by Herasanna Richards

This week, the Michigan Senate is anticipated to take action on HB 5392 from Rep. Lighter, which would extend the current sunset on the authority for courts to impose costs upon criminal defendants to fund the day-to-day operations of the courts. The current sunset is set to expire on May 1, 2024. HB 5392 will extend the sunset to December 31, 2024.

Also tie-barred to HB 5392 is HB 5534 from Rep. Breen, which would require the State Court Administrative Office to determine the amount of potential lost revenue for trial courts, the minimum operational cost for trial courts, and the additional funds needed. The legislation also would require the office to submit a report to the Legislature with recommendations on how to cover additional costs of trial courts after the elimination of fees.

The two bills are now before the Senate. The much-needed momentum continued, and SB 814 and 815 were also introduced in the Senate before the Senate Civil Rights Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. The League provided testimony in support of both bills.

There are four funding sources for trial courts. Counties pay for the majority costs of trial courts – 44% of funding ($492 million in 2019) is provided by the local funding unit. 26% of court funding, or $250 million, is court-generated revenues. 23% ($254 million) comes from the state. However, of that 23%, a considerable portion is made up of court costs/assessments from local courts. These amounts are collected locally, remitted to the state, and then used to fund the courts. On average, courts and local funding units remit back to the state $127 million per year.

Members communities that are local funding units for their respective courts are encouraged to contact their Senators TODAY to let them know that time is of the essence, and they must work to swiftly pass HBs 5392 and 5534. Most importantly, it is a priority to pass and implement HB 5392 before May 1st to extend the sunset on trial court funding fee authority. The collection of these fines/fees amounts to approximately $50 million statewide annually, so roughly $1 million per week. Without the ability for judges to impose such fees, counties and other local funding units will then have to provide the necessary funding to their courts.

There are four (4) sources of funding for Michigan Trial Courts.

  1. Local Funding units providing the biggest slice of the funding pie= 44% or $492 million
  2. Court-generated revenues ($250-$290 million) = 26% or $250 million
  3. State = 23% or $254 million
    • Of this 23%, a considerable portion of this is made up of court costs/assessments from local courts. These assessments are collected locally and remitted to the State.
    • On average, courts and local funding units remit $127 million/year to the state.
    • When the $127 million is removed from the state share, the amount that the state funds for trial courts is greatly reduced.
    • Counties are the largest funding source for Michigan Trial Courts.
  4. Federal = 7% or $80 million

Herasanna Richards is a legislative associate covering energy, environment, public safety, and technology for the League. She can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0309.

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