Plans on State and Federal Funding for Civil Legal Services
Resource Development Committee
Prepared September 6, 2005
The Resource Development Committee has two current objectives - to work to maintain and increase funding for civil legal services from 1) the Colorado State Legislature and 2) the federal Legal Services Corporation.
What follows is information concerning the status of these two important sources of funding for legal services in Colorado.
State Legislative Funding:
The Colorado legislature provided funding for civil legal services to domestic violence victims from 1999 through 2003. The funding started at $250,000 and gradually increased to $500,000. During the 2004 legislative session, the funding was eliminated, as the legislature struggled with the state’s fiscal crisis. In 2004, Colorado was one of only eight states in the country that provided no state funding for civil legal services to the poor.
During the 2005 legislative session, the funding was restored. We are indebted to Representative Tom Plant and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey. The issue was raised during a meeting of the Chief Justice and the Joint Budget Committee, and the decision was made to reinstate this funding. This critical funding is used to help domestic violence victims obtain restraining orders, divorces, child support, and solve other related legal problems. They and their children have the opportunity to move forward with their lives in a safer and healthier environment.
The Resource Development Committee is making plans to educate key state legislators about the value of funding legal assistance for domestic violence victims. The goal is to at least maintain and, if possible, increase this critical funding in the 2006 session.
Legal Services Corporation Funding:
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is the largest source of funding for legal services in Colorado, providing almost half of the funding. Any reduction in LSC funding would have a serious negative impact on services. President Bush has proposed a 5% cut for the 2006FY.
The CBA has done significant work in the effort to maintain and increase LSC funding this year. A group of Colorado lawyers, led by CBA Executive Director Chuck Turner, CBA President-elect Roger Clark, and ABA President-elect Karen Mathis, traveled to Washington, D.C. in May for ABA Day. During this annual event sponsored by the American Bar Association, bar leaders from throughout the country gather in Washington to meet with members of Congress. Lawyers talked to their Congressional delegations about the importance of LSC funding and asked that they support a 10% increase. Our delegation met with several of our Congress people and/or members of their staffs (Senators Salazar and Allard, and Representatives Udall, DeGette, Salazar and Beauprez).
Our delegation asked our members of Congress to sign letters to the heads of the appropriate subcommittees urging an increase in funding. Senator Salazar signed the Senate version, and Representatives Udall, DeGette and Salazar signed the House letter.
As of early September, the status of LSC funding is that the House version of the legislation provides for $330.8 million, which is the same as this year. This is viewed as something of a victory, as most other programs are being cut this year. The Senate bill came out of committee at $324.5 million, which is halfway between the current level and the President’s proposal. Debate before the full Senate is scheduled to occur as early as September 8. Senator Harkin will offer an amendment to increase funding to as much as $363.8 million.
A Resource Development Committee meeting will be held at the end of September to discuss strategies for the 2006 state legislative session. Information will be provided to all committee members as soon as the date and time are set.
Others interested in participating or wishing more information should contact Meredith McBurney, Committee Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303/329-8091.