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Judiciary panel advances $1.4 billion omnibus bill

The omnibus judiciary finance bill would fund the courts, civil legal services, Guardian ad Litem Board, Tax Court, Uniform Laws Commission, Board on Judicial Standards, Board of Public Defense, and Human Rights Department to the tune of $1.36 billion in the 2024-25 biennium.

And that funding proposal took an important step toward reaching the governor’s desk when the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee amended the delete-all amendment to HF1580, then approved the bill on a split-voice vote Thursday, and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), the committee chair and bill sponsor, said the dollar figure represents a strong and long-overdue investment in the state’s judiciary system, noting that it includes significant increases in funding for public defenders, civil legal service attorneys, judges, law clerks, and a boost in jury duty daily pay from $20 to $50.

[MORE: Read about the bill; View the spreadsheet]

Prior to the vote, Republicans said they generally approved of many proposed provisions, but disliked enough portions that Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) said her caucus would vote against it.

Scott, the Republican lead, unsuccessfully offered an amendment to restore funding for recruiting and retaining volunteer guardians ad litem.

That program currently has both paid employees and volunteers who advocate for children who need counsel in court proceedings.

Scott said the volunteers are a vital part of the program, but Becker-Finn said the bill reflects the will of the Guardian ad Litem Board, which requested, and received, enough funding to switch to using only paid employees moving forward.

The committee first heard the omnibus judiciary finance bill Tuesday, when it also heard the omnibus judiciary policy bill, which it approved and sent to the House Floor.

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