2004 Regular Session
To: Judiciary A; Appropriations
By: Representative Coleman (29th), Clark, Blackmon, Moak
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 9-1-36, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE OFFICE FUNDING FOR CIRCUIT JUDGES AND CHANCELLORS WHO DO NOT HAVE A PRIMARY OFFICE PROVIDED BY THE COUNTY; TO AMEND SECTION 19-3-41, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY THERETO; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 9-1-36, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
9-1-36. (1) Each circuit judge and chancellor shall receive an office operating allowance for the expenses of operating the office of such judge, including retaining a law clerk, legal research, stenographic help, stationery, stamps, furniture, office equipment, telephone, office rent and other items and expenditures necessary and incident to maintaining the office of judge. Such allowance shall be paid only to the extent of actual expenses incurred by any such judge as itemized and certified by such judge to the Supreme Court and then in an amount of Four Thousand Dollars ($4,000.00) per annum; however, such judge may expend sums in excess thereof from the compensation otherwise provided for his office. No part of this expense or allowance shall be used to pay an official court reporter for services rendered to said court.
(2) In addition to the amounts provided for in subsection (1), there is hereby created a separate office allowance fund for the purpose of providing support staff to judges. This fund shall be managed by the Administrative Office of Courts.
(3) Each judge who desires to employ support staff after July 1, 1994, shall make application to the Administrative Office of Courts by submitting to the Administrative Office of Courts a proposed personnel plan setting forth what support staff is deemed necessary. Such plan may be submitted by a single judge or by any combination of judges desiring to share support staff. In the process of the preparation of the plan, the judges, at their request, may receive advice, suggestions, recommendations and other assistance from the Administrative Office of Courts. The Administrative Office of Courts must approve the positions, job descriptions and salaries before the positions may be filled. The Administrative Office of Courts shall not approve any plan which does not first require the expenditure of the funds in the support staff fund for compensation of any of the support staff before expenditure is authorized of county funds for that purpose. Upon approval by the Administrative Office of Courts, the judge or judges may appoint the employees to the position or positions, and each employee so appointed will work at the will and pleasure of the judge or judges who appointed him but will be employees of the Administrative Office of Courts. Upon approval by the Administrative Office of Courts, the appointment of any support staff shall be evidenced by the entry of an order on the minutes of the court. When support staff is appointed jointly by two (2) or more judges, the order setting forth any appointment shall be entered on the minutes of each participating court.
(4) The Administrative Office of Courts shall develop and promulgate minimum qualifications for the certification of court administrators. Any court administrator appointed on or after October 1, 1996, shall be required to be certified by the Administrative Office of Courts.
(5) Support staff shall receive compensation pursuant to personnel policies established by the Administrative Office of Courts; however, from and after July 1, 1994, the Administrative Office of Courts shall allocate from the support staff fund an amount of Forty Thousand Dollars ($40,000.00) per fiscal year (July 1 through June 30) per judge for whom support staff is approved for the funding of support staff assigned to a judge or judges. Any employment pursuant to this subsection shall be subject to the provisions of Section 25-1-53.
The Administrative Office of Courts may approve expenditure from the fund for additional equipment for support staff appointed pursuant to this section in any year in which the allocation per judge is sufficient to meet the equipment expense after provision for the compensation of the support staff.
(6) For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the meaning ascribed herein unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
(a) "Judges" means circuit judges and chancellors, or any combination thereof;
(b) "Support staff" means court administrators, law clerks, legal research assistants or secretaries, or any combination thereof, but shall not mean school attendance officers;
(c) "Compensation" means the gross salary plus all amounts paid for benefits or otherwise as a result of employment or as required by employment; provided, however, that only salary earned for services rendered shall be reported and credited for Public Employees' Retirement System purposes. Amounts paid for benefits or otherwise, including reimbursement for travel expenses, shall not be reported or credited for retirement purposes.
(7) Title to all tangible property, excepting stamps, stationery and minor expendable office supplies, procured with funds authorized by this section, shall be and forever remain in the State of Mississippi to be used by the circuit judge or chancellor during the term of his office and thereafter by his successors.
(8) Any circuit judge or chancellor who did not have a primary office provided by the county on March 1, 1988, shall be allowed an additional Four Thousand Dollars ($4,000.00) per annum to defray the actual expenses incurred by such judge or chancellor in maintaining an office; however, any circuit judge or chancellor who had a primary office provided by the county on March 1, 1988, and who vacated the office space after such date for a legitimate reason, as determined by the Department of Finance and Administration, shall be allowed the additional office expense allowance provided under this subsection. The county in which a circuit judge or chancellor sits is authorized to provide funds from any available source to assist in defraying the actual expenses to maintain an office.
(9) The Supreme Court, through the Administrative Office of Courts, shall submit to the Department of Finance and Administration the itemized and certified expenses for office operating allowances that are directed to the court pursuant to this section.
(10) The Supreme Court, through the Administrative Office of Courts, shall have the power to adopt rules and regulations regarding the administration of the office operating allowance authorized pursuant to this section.
SECTION 2. Section 19-3-41, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
19-3-41. (1) The boards of supervisors shall have within their respective counties full jurisdiction over roads, ferries and bridges, except as otherwise provided by Section 170 of the Constitution, and all other matters of county police. They shall have jurisdiction over the subject of paupers. They shall have power to levy such taxes as may be necessary to meet the demands of their respective counties, upon such persons and property as are subject to state taxes for the time being, not exceeding the limits that may be prescribed by law. They shall cause to be erected and kept in good repair, in their respective counties, a good and convenient courthouse and a jail. A courthouse shall be erected and kept in good repair in each judicial district and a jail may be erected in each judicial district. They may close a jail in either judicial district, at their discretion, where one (1) jail will suffice. They shall have the power, in their discretion, to prohibit or regulate the sale and use of firecrackers, roman candles, torpedoes, skyrockets, and any and all explosives commonly known and referred to as fireworks, outside the confines of municipalities. They shall have and exercise such further powers as are or shall be conferred upon them by law. They shall have authority to negotiate with and contract with licensed real estate brokers for the purpose of advertising and showing and procuring prospective purchasers for county-owned real property offered for sale in accordance with the provisions of Section 19-7-3.
(2) The board of supervisors of any county, in its discretion, may contract with a private attorney or private collection agent or agency to collect any type of delinquent payment owed to the county including, but not limited to, past due fees and fines, delinquent ad valorem taxes on personal property and delinquent ad valorem taxes on mobile homes that are entered as personal property on the mobile home rolls. Any such contract may provide for payment contingent upon successful collection efforts or payment based upon a percentage of the delinquent amount collected; however, the entire amount of all delinquent payments collected shall be remitted to the county and shall not be reduced by any collection costs or fees. There shall be due to the county from any person whose delinquent payment is collected pursuant to a contract executed under this subsection an amount, in addition to the delinquent payment, of not to exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the delinquent payment for collections made within this state and not to exceed fifty percent (50%) of the delinquent payment for collections made outside of this state. However, in the case of delinquent fees owed to the county for garbage or rubbish collection or disposal, only the amount of the delinquent fees may be collected and no amount in addition to the delinquent fees may be collected if the board of supervisors of the county has notified the county tax collector under Section 19-5-22 for the purpose of prohibiting the issuance of a motor vehicle road and bridge privilege license tag to the person delinquent in the payment of such fees. Any private attorney or private collection agent or agency contracting with the county under the provisions of this subsection shall give bond or other surety payable to the county in such amount as the board of supervisors deems sufficient. Any private attorney with whom the county contracts under the provisions of this subsection must be a member in good standing of The Mississippi Bar. Any private collection agent or agency with whom the county contracts under the provisions of this subsection must meet all licensing requirements for doing business in the State of Mississippi. Neither the county nor any officer or employee of the county shall be liable, civilly or criminally, for any wrongful or unlawful act or omission of any person or business with whom the county has contracted under the provisions of this subsection. The Mississippi Department of Audit shall establish rules and regulations for use by counties in contracting with persons or businesses under the provisions of this subsection.
(3) In addition to the authority granted under subsection (2) of this section, the board of supervisors of any county, in its discretion, may contract with one or more of the constables of the county to collect delinquent criminal fines imposed in the justice court of the county. Any such contract shall provide for payment contingent upon successful collection efforts, and the amount paid to a constable may not exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the amount which the constable collects. The entire amount of all delinquent criminal fines collected under such a contract shall be remitted by the constable to the clerk of the justice court for deposit into the county general fund as provided under Section 9-11-19. Any payments made to a constable pursuant to a contract executed under the provisions of this section may be paid only after presentation to and approval by the board of supervisors of the county.
(4) If a county uses its own employees to collect any type of delinquent payment owed to the county, then from and after July 1, 1999, the county may charge an additional fee for collection of the delinquent payment provided the payment has been delinquent for ninety (90) days. The collection fee may not exceed fifteen percent (15%) of the delinquent payment if the collection is made within this state and may not exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the delinquent payment if the collection is made outside this state. In conducting collection of delinquent payments, the county may utilize credit cards or electronic fund transfers. The county may pay any service fees for the use of such methods of collection from the collection fee, but not from the delinquent payment.
(5) In addition to such authority as is otherwise granted under this section, the board of supervisors of any county may expend funds necessary to maintain and repair, and to purchase liability insurance, tags and decals for, any personal property acquired under the Federal Excess Personal Property Program that is used by the local volunteer fire department.
(6) The board of supervisors of any county, in its discretion, may expend funds to provide for training and education of newly elected or appointed county officials before the beginning of the term of office or employment of such officials. Any expenses incurred for such purposes may be allowed only upon prior approval of the board of supervisors. Any payments or reimbursements made under the provisions of this subsection may be paid only after presentation to and approval by the board of supervisors.
(7) The board of supervisors of any county may expend funds to purchase, maintain and repair equipment for the electronic filing and storage of filings, files, instruments, documents and records using microfilm, microfiche, data processing, magnetic tape, optical discs, computers or other electronic process which correctly and legibly stores and reproduces or which forms a medium for storage, copying or reproducing documents, files and records for use by one (1), all or any combination of county offices, employees and officials, whether appointed or elected. (8) In addition to the authority granted in this section, the board of supervisors of any county may expend funds as provided in Section 29-3-23(2).
(9) The board of supervisors of any county may perform and exercise any duty, responsibility or function, may enter into agreements and contracts, may provide and deliver any services or assistance, and may receive, expend and administer any grants, gifts, matching funds, loans or other monies, in accordance with and as may be authorized by any federal law, rule or regulation creating, establishing or providing for any program, activity or service. The provisions of this paragraph shall not be construed as authorizing any county, the board of supervisors of any county or any member of a board of supervisors to perform any function or activity that is specifically prohibited under the laws of this state or as granting any authority in addition to or in conflict with the provisions of any federal law, rule or regulation.
(10) The board of supervisors of any county may provide funds from any available source to assist in defraying the actual expenses to maintain an office as provided in Section 9-1-36. The authority provided in this subsection shall apply to any office regardless of ownership of such office or who may be making any lease payments for such office.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.