HBA-KDB H.B. 1220 77(R)BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 1220 By: Hartnett Judicial Affairs 7/16/2001 Enrolled BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Prior to the 77th Legislature, a clerk of a statutory probate court was required to collect a $40 filing fee paid by the litigants in each probate, guardianship, mental health, or civil case filed in the court in counties whose commissioners courts had authorized the fee. For each county that collected this fee, the state was required to annually compensate the county in an amount equal to $40,000 for each statutory probate court judge in the county. At the end of the year, the state returned additional amounts to the counties on a proportional basis. That excess amount was paid to a county's general fund with the limitation that the excess amount could be used only for court-related purposes for the support of the judiciary. The intent of creating the $40 filing fee may have been to provide additional funding, above and beyond that already earmarked by the commissioners court, to support the operations of the statutory probate courts exclusively. Some counties may have decreased general fund expenditures that were historically allocated in the county budget for the support of the statutory probate courts and used the excess amount from the $40 filing fee to make up the shortfall. In addition, a county could have relied upon the statute's language "for the support of the judiciary" to justify the county's use of the filing fee generated by the statutory probate court for the support of other courts in the county. House Bill 1220 requires the $40 filing fee to be paid into a contributions fund in a county treasury, rather than a county's general fund, and provides that the money in the fund is to be used only for court-related purposes for the support of the statutory probate courts in a county. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. ANALYSIS House Bill 1220 amends the Government Code to create a contributions fund in the county treasury of each county that collects the additional $40 fee in certain statutory probate courts. The bill authorizes the money in a contributions fund to be used only for court-related purposes for the support of the statutory probate courts in the county. The bill prohibits a county from reducing the amount of funds provided for the support of the statutory probate courts in the county because of the availability of funds from the county's contributions fund. The bill requires the amounts remitted to the counties by the state after the state has compensated the judicial fund to be paid to the county treasury for deposit in the contributions fund. The bill deletes the provision that requires the remitted amount to be paid to the county's general fund to be used only for court-related purposes for the support of the judiciary. The bill requires the amount of $40,000 that the state annually compensates a county that collects an additional $40 filing fee for each statutory probate court judge to be paid to the county treasury for deposit in the contributions fund, rather than the county's salary fund. The bill provides that any amount that was paid to a county's salary fund or to a county's general fund, on or after October 1, 1999, and before the effective date of the Act and that is on deposit in the respective fund on the effective date of the Act is required to be transferred to the county's contributions fund. EFFECTIVE DATE June 17, 2001.