JFAC can still transfer funds for county public defense
By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
There’s an easy fix to a potential public defense funding issue in proposed property tax legislation.
To recap: House Bill 292 would have inadvertently double-funded public defense for fiscal year 2024 by providing $34 million for counties for indigent defense, as well as $36 million for the newly created state public defense fund. After Gov. Brad Little vetoed the bill on Monday, the House proposed a companion bill Tuesday morning that would address some of Little’s concerns should the Legislature successfully override the veto.
The House has already voted to override the veto. The Senate hasn’t yet voted on the matter.
The trailer bill, HB376, keeps the $36 million for the state public defense fund, but took out the $34 million for counties for state fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023.
The problem: Counties must still provide public defense through fiscal year 2024. As it stands, the State Public Defender won’t take over indigent defense services until fiscal year 2025.
Keith Bybee, Budget & Policy Division Manager for the Legislative Services Office, told Idaho Reports that the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee can still meet to fund the transfer of $36 million from the state public defense fund to the counties.
“Historically, when there is legislation that would cause an appropriation, JFAC will meet to fund that legislation,” Bybee wrote in a statement to Idaho Reports. “With the change in H376, JFAC would need to meet to fund the distribution to the counties.”
All of this matters only if the Senate votes to override Little’s veto. Without that action, the trailer bill will be irrelevant.
The joint budget committee had already passed an appropriation to help establish the State Public Defender. On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate sent the appropriation bill back to the Senate Finance Committee.