BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A bid to give judges five years of annual pay raises easily received the backing Monday of the Senate's budget committee — after it was changed to require money for the salary hike to come from the annual judicial budget.
Supporters said the judges haven't had a raise since 2010. "It really is appropriate to do this," said Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.
The bill would give Supreme Court justices a 5.5 percent pay increase on July 1, with appeal court judges getting a 3.7 percent boost and district court judges receiving a 4 percent increase.
After that, every July from 2014 through 2017, all three sets of judges — along with city and parish court judges — would get a 2.1 percent annual bump in pay.
The raises would cost $2.5 million in the first year, then grow another $1.4 million in cost each year through the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The Finance Committee agreed without objection, sending the proposal (Senate Bill 188) to the full Senate for debate.
Also sent to the Senate floor with unanimous backing from the committee was a House-approved bill (House Bill 174) that would allow annual 4 percent pay raises for parish clerks of court for the next four years.
The raises would add about $300,000 in salary costs each year and would only be allowed if clerks complete an annual certification and maintain the certification.
The House backed another attempt to force a 10 percent cut on state agencies' spending on consulting and professional services contracts.
Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, I-Thibodaux, has tried a similar bill for several years, only to see the idea killed in the Senate. The House voted unanimously for this year's version of the proposal (House Bill 73), which would require the reduction in the 2013-14 budget year that begins July 1.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration opposes the measure as limiting agency decision-making.
In other legislative action:
—Inmates in parish jails will be able to do manual labor at churches and other religious buildings as part of their work duties, after the House gave final, unanimous passage to a bill (Senate Bill 8) by Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston. It adds religious buildings to the list of places that criminal sheriffs can use inmate work crews. The measure heads to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
—Louisiana motorists will be able to get "I'm a Cajun" stamped on their driver's licenses for a $5 annual fee, under a proposal that received final passage from the House in a 74-9 vote. The bill (Senate Bill 201) by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Breaux Bridge, was designed to drum up money for the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, to pay for scholarships. It moves next to the governor's desk.
—Existing limitations on funeral protests will be toughened after receiving final approval from the House. Under current law, a person can be charged with disturbing the peace if obstructing a funeral or memorial service. The change will extend that to include the funeral route and set a perimeter banning protesters within 500 feet of the funeral. The bill (Senate Bill 72) by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, heads to the governor.