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Published on Friday, January 29, 2016

Bill on public defense grant funding heard

Thanks to Kelso City Manager Steve Taylor for joining AWC and counties staff in testifying in favor of HB 2764. This bill is a technical fix bill sponsored by Rep. Jinkins (D-Tacoma) and Rep. Chandler (R-Granger) that would share the new revenue for public defense grants equally between cities and counties.

In January 2014 new misdemeanor public defense standards took effect as mandated by the Supreme Court. The result was increased costs of public defense services for many cities and counties. AWC, the Washington Association of Counties (WSAC), and the Office of Public Defense (OPD) sought additional revenues to help offset these new costs. In 2015 we were successful in getting the Supreme Court to adopt a modest increase in the base infraction fine, and subsequently, in asking the Legislature to dedicate $900,000 per year of that new revenue to OPD for the public defense grant program. However, the new money was still subject the old split of 90 percent to counties and 10 percent to cities. AWC and WSAC worked jointly on this effort and had agreed to share any new funding equally. HB 2764 corrects the split effectively dedicating $450,000 more to cities’ public defense grants.

HB 2764 was heard in House Appropriations and now needs to move out of that committee by the cutoff deadline of February 9.