The South Carolina Senate has passed the second of three readings of a bill that would increase court fees.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal has asked lawmakers to come up with more cash for the judiciary branch of government, saying that layoffs and a reduction in services will happen without it, due to budget cuts.
The Senate proposal would raise more than $16 million for the court system. The plan includes bumping up some court fees from $150 to $300, and increasing other fees from $25 to $75.
The 26-11 vote showed notable opposition, including Edgefield Republican Shane Massey, who insisted that $300 is too much to charge citizens drawn into family court. He proposed lowering that to $200 for family court cases.
Massey and Sumter Democrat Phil Leventis agreed that the court system should be funded according to a percentage of the state revenues.
(Massey and Leventis on court fees MP3 2:11)
Massey-Leventis on court fees
Massey said he found it hard to believe that the judiciary branch could soon be funded more from fees than from state revenue. He told his colleagues that the truth is that the bumped up fees would be nothing more than another “goody bag” of state government.
Right off the top, the extra fee revenue will go to the Prosecution Coordination Commission. It will also go, right off the top, to the Access to Justice Commission. Then third, we’ll send money to the judiciary. We’re sending the money other places.
Leventis says that they should not tell the families of foster children and others that the only way to increase judicial funding is to raise court fees, because there are clearly other ways.
(Leventis on court fees MP3 4:24)
Leventis on court fees
Massey says he’s really concerned that Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal has had to go to major businesses and beg them for money to support the court system.
(Massey on court fees and businesses MP3 1:37)
Massey on fees and businesses