Quick update to my post of last Friday regarding the budget implementer bills passed by the legislature.
Yesterday, the Governor signed the largest of the budget implementation bills that covers the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. As a result, the changes I wrote about last week will be put into place.
However, the Governor vetoed a bill (H.B. 7006) that would have prevented further budget cuts from affecting the Judicial Branch, which has already taken a hit earlier in the year.
As a result (and without an override) there will be a cut to the specific line of "Other Expenses", which includes $1.5 million in basic legal aid funding. The line also pays for some domestic violence advocates and other legal-related programs (it also pays for items such as lighting and heating for courthouses which can’t be cut significantly) leaving legal aid and domestic violence funding very vulnerable.
The Chief Court Administrator has said that making such cuts is essentially "impossible". She has detailed the possible cuts in a memo last week. The Hartford Courant has some more details as well.
The prospects for an override are not great at this time, in part, because three Democrats (who hold the majority) voted against the bill.
For businesses in Connecticut, these potential cuts have some direct and indirect impacts. For example, the cuts may make court cases slower to proceed because of the lack of resources within the judicial branch to handle the caseload.
Also, we may see a further rise in the number of "pro se" litigants (or people who represent themselves in court); litigation with pro se plaintiffs is typically more costly and time-consuming because often various procedural rules are not followed and courts give such litigants a great deal of discretion and leeway.
Putting those practical concerns aside, the cuts to legal aid would be particularly hard-hitting this year given the increased need for those services. A number of legal aid organizations in the state are already under tremendous financial strains; the proposed cuts would affect them in fairly significant ways.