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Published on Friday, February 14, 2014

SSB 6249 providing funding for new public defense caseload limits

SSB 6249 would provide additional funding options to help cities respond the State Supreme Court’s new mandate for public defense caseload limits. The new misdemeanor caseload limits take effect January, 2015 and cap public defenders at 400 cases per year or 300 cases if the jurisdiction has a caseload weighting system. Cities anticipate increased costs as a result.

The State currently only provides about $600,000 in funding to cities in the form of a competitive grant program through the Office of Public Defense to help offset local costs. SSB 6249 would provide some additional funding tools to help offset these costs.

SSB 6249 is awaiting action in Senate Ways & Means. While the bill did not make it out of committee prior to the fiscal cutoff, the bill sponsor has indicated that the bill is still alive and will be reconsidered. The bill was originally heard in the Senate Law & Justice Committee and amended in that committee in a way that reduced the funding it would generate. The bill sponsor, Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup), has an amendment to return the bill to its original form. Thanks to Kent City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick and Lakewood City Attorney Heidi Wachter for their help in testifying on behalf of these bills in the various committee hearings.

The companion bill, HB 2497, failed to move out of House Appropriations prior to the cutoff and is considered dead for the session.

Now is the time to let members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee know that cities support this bill and Sen. Dammeier’s amendment and want to see it voted on by the committee and passed by the Senate.

Categories: Law & justice