Compromise Being Worked For Probate Judges Bill

By Mary Sell Montgomery Bureau | Posted: Friday, April 24, 2015 12:00 am

MONTGOMERY — Compromises are being sought on a bill that would give Tennessee Valley probate judges significant raises, lawmakers said.

Senate Bill 369 and House Bill 447 would provide that probate judges starting in 2019 be paid based on a percentage of the salary of a state district court judge and according to county population. It also would provide for raises and higher pay based on years of service.

Local county officials this week called the legislation an unfunded mandate they can’t afford. The Association of County Commissioners of Alabama opposes it and spoke against it at a public hearing in the Statehouse this week.

The bill sponsor in the Senate, Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, said Thursday that “all interested parties” are now working on the legislation.

“We’ll try to have some sort of compromise and then will have a vote next week,” Whatley said.

His bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“There is a dispute between the Alabama county commissioners association and the probate judges, obviously,” committee chairman Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said Thursday. “There have been a couple of compromises floated (Thursday) by the county commissioners association. It’s fluid and they’re still working on it. I think we could have something by next week that we can pass out of committee.”

He said one of the compromises included a staggered pay raise.

Supporters of the legislation said it’s needed because even though a 15-year-old act requires probate judges receive pay raises when county employees do, that hasn’t happened in all counties. They’re trying to bring uniformity to probate judges’ pay.

Under the original bill, in Morgan County, the new salary for the probate judge, assuming the current judge is re-elected, would be $123,111. That’s a $35,189 increase. Limestone County’s probate judge would earn $113,744, a $12,791 increase. In Lawrence County, the judge would earn $108,243 a year, an increase of almost $36,000.

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