It’s only been a little over 24 hours since the North Carolina General Assembly introduced its final budget and its already well on its way to a House vote after passing the Senate on Tuesday.
There is plenty to read in the 438-page document and plenty to get confused about. Below are a few highlights from the Justice and Public Safety budget:
Raise the Age
Lawmakers have finally agreed to raise the juvenile age of prosecution from 16 and 17 years old to 18 years old. The final budget allocates $519,600 the first fiscal year toward “Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act Planning” and $478,000 the second fiscal year.
The budget policy decision mandates that 16- and 17-year-olds who are accused of committing misdemeanors and two classes of felonies no longer be automatically prosecuted in the adult criminal system.
The policy decision also increases the information available on juveniles to law enforcement and establishes a juvenile jurisdiction advisory committee to help with implementation. You can read more about the decision beginning on page 309 of the budget.
If you haven’t already read Rob Schofield’s piece about the budget provision entitled “Access to Civil Justice Funds,” do it now. And then come back to finish reading this article.
The provision will eliminate $1.7 million in legal services programs across the state, affecting those most in need and almost assuredly creating unequal access to justice.
As written in the final budget, the provision means that $1.50 of every court fee imposed in District and Superior Courts would no longer be distributed to the North Carolina State Bar for legal services. It could also mean reducing LANC staff across the state by 50 to 60 or more positions.
Instead of eliminating emergency judges altogether (ahem … Senate), budget negotiations resulted in lawmakers reducing funds for emergency judges, reducing the number of emergency judges who can be recalled and limiting situations for which an emergency judge may be recalled. Read more