HBA-KDB H.B. 1220 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 1220 By: Hartnett Judicial Affairs 3/20/2001 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Under current law, a clerk of a statutory probate court is 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 have authorized this fee. For each county that collects this fee, the state is 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 returns additional amounts to the counties on a proportional basis. Currently, that excess amount is paid to a county's general fund with the limitation that the excess fund can 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. There is some concern, however, that counties may have decreased general fund expenditures that were historically allocated in the county budget for the support of the statutory probate courts and are relying on the $40 filing fee to make up the shortfall. In addition, a county may rely 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 an excess 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 an excess contributions fund in the county treasury of each county to collect the additional fees in certain statutory probate courts. The bill authorizes the money in an excess 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 excess contributions fund. H.B. 1220 requires the excess amount remitted to the counties after the state has compensated the judicial fund to be paid to the county treasury for deposit in the excess 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. EFFECTIVE DATE On passage, or if the Act does not receive the necessary vote, the Act takes effect September 1, 2001.