Missouri House committee wary of legal fees to fund sheriff’s retirement | national news

(The Center Square) — Asking Missouri voters to decide whether to add civil court fees to fund the sheriff’s retirement fund raised concerns in a House committee.

Joint House Resolution 136, sponsored by Rep. Barry Hovis, R-Whitewater, would require voters to approve a constitutional amendment to authorize a $7 fee for any initial filing of any civil case in Missouri state courts. The fees would be sent to the state treasurer and deposited into the sheriffs retirement fund.

The Sheriff’s Retirement Fund was canceled last year by a decision of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Daven Fowler and Jerry Keller pleaded guilty after receiving speeding tickets in 2017 in the Kansas City area. While paying their fines, they noticed that a $3 fee had been added for the Missouri Sheriff’s Retirement System. The Missouri Legislature approved a $3 surtax in 1984 on all civil actions and criminal cases filed in court, including violation of any county ordinance or any violation of criminal or traffic laws, including offenses , and ordered that the funds be payable to the Sheriffs Retirement System. .

The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously struck down the law, saying the court fees used to increase compensation paid to executive officials were not “reasonably related to the expense of the administration of justice” and violated the constitution .

“It’s put the sheriff’s retirement fund in an untenable position unless they find a new source of revenue,” Hovis said.

The resolution’s tax memo stated that the six-year average of civil cases was about 320,000. At $7 per case, the sheriff’s retirement fund would receive about $2.2 million a year.

“I’m just curious,” said Rep. Michael O’Donnell, R-St. Louis, said during a House Pensions Committee hearing on April 6. “Why are we going with this funding source? Obviously they need funding. But why can’t we do something with the budget? »

Chuck Hatfield, an attorney for the Sheriff’s Retirement Fund, said the organization has looked into funding sources.

“There are a lot of ways to do it,” Hatfield said. “You could impose another tax or find the money elsewhere. This idea is basically to continue what has been done in the past, which is to continue charging fees on deposits. We have moved from criminal prosecution to civil prosecution.

Rep. Bill Owen, R-Springfield, suggested the sheriff’s retirement fund could be added to another state retirement system, such as Missouri’s local government employee retirement system, known as of LAGERs.

“There’s always a lot of discussion — and this committee probably has — about what makes the most sense and how to combine all the investments,” Hatfield said. “We have a lot of different pension systems for a whole bunch of reasons.”

Scott Walterbach of the Missouri Creditors’ Bar said the pension system is a good cause, but testified against adding fees.

“We believe court fees should reflect the cost of administering justice and running the courts,” Walterback said. “And so, that’s really just our objection to including it as a legal fee. We think it’s not good for business.

The legislation still needs to be voted on at subsequent meetings of the pension committee.

Comments are closed.