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On a 22-6 vote late Tuesday, the Texas Senate passed a judicial pay raise bill and sent it to Gov. Rick Perry for signing. State Sen. Robert Duncan, Senate sponsor of H.B. 11, says he has received assurances from the governor’s staff that Perry will sign the bill. “They’re dealing firsthand with the challenges of trying to recruit qualified [judicial] candidates,” says Duncan, R-Lubbock, a partner in Crenshaw, Dupree & Milam. Duncan also notes that Perry opened the call of the second special session to the issue of judges’ compensation. However, Perry vetoed a 3 percent pay raise for judges in 2001. Robert Black, a Perry spokesman, sidesteps questions about whether the governor will sign the pay raise bill this time. “I think there are a lot of issues outstanding in the session,” Black says. “Anything that reaches the governor’s desk at this point, he will certainly review, but he’s keeping his options open.” Duncan says it has been seven years since judges last received an increase in their state pay. Funding for the raises under H.B. 11 will come from a $37-per-case increase in the filing fee in the civil courts and a $4 fee to be imposed on persons convicted of criminal offenses. A judicial pay raise bill died amidst legislative wrangling over indigent defense issues late in the regular session, which ended on May 30. One of the issues raised at that time was over an amendment that state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, added to the bill during the Senate debate. Under the Ellis amendment, the fee for criminal convictions would increase to $7, with the additional funding earmarked for indigent defense. “Sen. Ellis was a statesman about it and agreed not to run with [the amendment] this time,” Duncan says. “I didn’t want to kill the bill, and I’m not sure I would have had the votes to put [the amendment] on,” Ellis says. Ellis was one of the six senators who voted against H.B. 11 on final passage. He says his was a protest vote to make a point that the Legislature should tap the state’s general revenue fund to increase judicial compensation. “I don’t think we ought to fund judicial pay raises with court fees,” Ellis says. Others who voted “no” on the bill were state Sens. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor; Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin; Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Kyle Janek, R-Houston; and Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso. H.B. 11 will take effect on Dec. 1. According to the Senate Research Center’s bill analysis, the bill will increase salaries for members of the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals from $113,000 to $150,000 and raise the salaries of midlevel appellate justices from $101,000 to $137,500. State district court judges will see their salaries go from $101,000 to $125,000 under the bill. Constitutional county court judges who spend 40 percent or more time on judicial functions will receive a $5,000 boost in their state supplement for a total of $15,000, according to the bill analysis. The bill also increases state legislators’ retirement benefits. Under Texas Government Code �814.103(a), pensions for legislators are linked to the salaries of state district judges. Duncan originally proposed de-linking legislators’ pensions from judicial salaries when he filed S.B. 368 in the regular session. His original plan, Duncan says, was to link the pensions to the governor’s salary, but the Legislature increased the governor’s salary significantly. “There was no consensus about what we’d link [the pensions] to,” he says.

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