C.S.H.B. 1945 78(R)    BILL ANALYSIS

C.S.H.B. 1945
By: Hartnett
Judicial Affairs
Committee Report (Substituted)


Under current law, certain statutory county courts may collect various
types of fees.  The major fees in question are a $40 filing fee for civil
cases (the "Civil Fee") and a $15 court cost assessed upon conviction (the
"Criminal Fee").  Collection of these fees is optional to the counties.
Parties have filed lawsuits - the latest being Caldwell v. Rylander which
is currently pending in the district court of Travis County - seeking to
declare these fees unconstitutional.  These lawsuits claim primarily that
the Criminal Fee violates equal protection provisions since it is not
uniformly required across the state.   

While none of these lawsuits have been successful, there are no appellate
decisions on record and many county governments are concerned with the
severe fiscal impact that would result if the fees are held
unconstitutional at some point.  C.S.H.B. 1945 requires the uniform
collection of the Criminal Fee, thereby obviating the issues raised by
Caldwell v. Rylander.   

The bill also addresses the state contribution/supplement plan for certain
statutory county court judges, since this plan is linked to the fees
described above.  Under current law, counties which choose to collect the
fees "opt-in" to the system and forward the fees collected to the
comptroller, who places the money in the judicial fund.  Participating
counties then receive a contribution of $35,000 per judge from the state.
Of this amount, $30,000 is paid from the judicial fund, and $5,000 is paid
from the general revenue fund.   

C.S.H.B. 1945 provides that a county is not considered a participating
county unless is collects both the Civil Fee and the Criminal Fee.  The
system for counties participating before the effective date of the bill
will continue unchanged from current law.  Counties electing to
participate after the effective date will receive their entire supplement
from the judicial fund, thereby not increasing the current appropriation
from the general revenue fund.  Counties which collect the Criminal Fee
only will not participate in the contribution/supplement plan and will
retain the Criminal Fees collected.  

Legislation to address similar issues in 2001 (contained in H.B. 2300 and
H.B. 1884) passed the House but did not pass the Senate.  


It is the committee's opinion that this bill does not expressly grant any
additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or


C.S.H.B. 1945 amends the Government Code to provide that in order to be
considered a participating county, a county must collect both the Civil
Fee (Section 51.702(a), Government Code) and the Criminal Fee (Section
51.702(b), Government Code).   

The bill provides that a county participating before September 1, 2003
shall have their state contribution for certain judges paid from both the
judicial fund ($30,000 per judge) and the general revenue fund ($5,000 per
judge) as provided by current law.  Counties choosing to participate after
September 1,2003, shall have their entire state contribution paid from the
judicial fund.   

The bill also provides that in a county in which court costs are not
collected under Section 51.702(b), Government Code, a person shall pay, in
addition to other court costs, $15 as a court cost on conviction of any
criminal offense in a statutory county court, including cases in which
probation or deferred adjudication is granted.  A conviction that arises
under Chapter 521, Transportation Code, or a conviction under Subtitle C,
Title 7, Transportation Code, is included, except that a conviction
arising under any law that regulates pedestrians or the parking of motor
vehicles is not included.   

Court costs due under the above paragraph shall be collected in the same
manner as other fees, fines, and costs are collected in the case.  The
clerk shall send the costs to the county treasurer or other person
performing the duties of county treasurer at least as frequently as
monthly.  The county treasurer or other person shall deposit the costs
collected in the county treasury.   

The bill provides that a clerk may not collect a fee under both Section
51.703 and Section 51.702(a), Government Code.  


September 1, 2003.


The original mandated that all counties collect both the Civil Fee and the
Criminal Fee, and thus that all counties participate in the
contribution/supplement scheme.  The substitute mandates the collection of
only the Criminal Fee, and deems a county participating only if it collect
both the Civil Fee and the Criminal Fee.   

The substitute distinguishes between counties which participated before
the effective date and those which choose to participate after the
effective date.  The original would have required additional
appropriations from the general revenue fund for all participating
counties, even those brought into the system after the effective date.
The substitute requires no additional appropriation from general revenue
and states that counties choosing to participate after the effective date
will receive their contribution/supplement only from the judicial fund.   

The substitute provides that non-participating counties will retain the
funds they collect from persons upon certain criminal convictions.   

The substitute adds language to conform to the provisions of the
substitute Section 25.0292(f), Government Code relating to Burnet County.