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California Courts could face a new budget structure if Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) has his way.
Calderon is the author of AB 1208, a California court budget restructuring proposal that narrowly won approval in the legislature this week. The bill would strip the Judicial Council — and the court bureaucracy, the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) — of its control over the court system’s $3 billion budget, and return control over the budget to the legislature, reports the Associated Press.
The Assembly passed the bill by a 41-23 vote. There were 15 abstentions.
The Alliance of California Judges and the Service Employees International Union, representing courthouse employees, both support the measure, reports the Sacramento Bee.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council oppose AB 1208. Cantil-Sakauye claims, "People who know the facts, know that this is no victory for Californians, for our state courts, or for equal access to justice." She has expressed concerns that the Calderon's plan compromises the judicial branch's independence.
The bill still has a long way to go before the Judicial Council loses control over the California court budget. The next step is the State Senate, where it is already encountering obstacles. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has placed the bill on hold, and has no plans to refer the bill to a committee for action, reports the AP.
Regardless of AB 1208's future, the California court budget remains strained. At last week's Judicial Council meeting, Council members discussed the threat of further cuts to the court budget. While Governor Jerry Brown's current budget proposal does not ask for additional immediate cuts to the courts, the courts face another $125 million in cuts unless voters approve a tax increase in November, reports California Courts News.