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$390 fee bill moves through legislature

The State Bar’s fee bill for 2005 was approved by the state Senate on a 30-7 vote last month and now heads to the Assembly, where it is expected to be heard by the Judiciary Committee this month.

The measure, SB 1490, extends the bar’s ability to charge the same $390 fee it has collected from all active attorneys for the past three years. Passage will mean there has been no fee increase for six years.

According to an analysis by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the potential for fiscal crisis in 2005 has been averted “at least for one year, as a result of changes adopted last year, belt tightening and reduced level of payouts from the Client Security Fund.”

Noting that the bar has signaled that it may seek a fee increase in the future, the analysis concludes, “For the time being, the prudent policy call is to see how much additional revenue results from the 2003 scaling changes and to see how the bar handles that additional revenue before deciding if any dues increase is needed.”

Legislation enacted last year was meant to reduce the revenue loss from scaling, but this year it has still lowered revenue by some $3.6 million.

The fee bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 5-0 vote. All no votes cast on the Senate floor were from Republicans, although a number of party members supported the bill, including long-time State Bar critic Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside.

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