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On November 12, the House of Representatives passed the FY21 budget. I am sharing with you a summary of a few sections, compiled by House Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Claire Cronin.

FY21 House Budget:

Judiciary

COVID-19 has increased the need for civil legal aid across the Commonwealth. The House budget prioritizes investment in civil legal aid to ensure that MLAC can continue to assist our constituents with civil legal issues, including housing, unemployment and public benefits, domestic violence, and healthcare.

The investments made in the FY21 House budget demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that all citizens of the Commonwealth have access to justice through our court system.

Below are some highlights:

  • $761.7 million, for the Trial Court, over $22 million above the FY20 budget, including:
    • $6,315,679 for specialty courts
    • $20,456,726 for the Juvenile Court Department, including $458,493 for Court Appointed Special Advocates programs across the Commonwealth
  • $29 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
    • The FY21 House budget funds MLAC $5 million above the FY20 budget
  • $20 million for annualized criminal justice reform implementation
  • $6.56 million to implement the recommendations of the Council of State Governments’ report
  • $25,889,514 for the Office of Community Corrections
  • $6.52 million for a grant program for community based residential re-entry programs to reduce recidivism by providing transitional housing, workforce development and case management to individuals returning to the community from houses of correction and state prisons
  • $350,000 for a grant program to divert juveniles and young adults from the juvenile and criminal justice systems prior to arrest or arraignment through coordinated programs for prevention and intervention serving youths and their families
  • $4,050,000 for pre and post release services grant program
  • $2,208,332 for Prisoners Legal Services
  • $2,085,321 for Mental Health Legal Advisors
  • $2,344,147 for the Social Law Library. The Social Law Library is the only one of its kind in the United States.
  • $70,647,321 for the Committee for Public Counsel Services
  • $150,455,738 for private assigned counsel compensation within the Committee for Public Counsel Services

Outside Sections

CPCS

  • The budget authorizes the committee for public counsel services (CPCS) to temporarily increase the rate of compensation for private counsel appointed or assigned to care and protection cases upon declaration of an emergency.  The budget authorizes the chief counsel of CPCS, upon declaration of an emergency, to waive the annual cap on billable hours for private counsel appointed or assigned to care and protection cases up to 2,000 hours.

Improved Access to Healthcare

The budget improves access to reproductive care by updating our laws to reflect over 40 years of judicial decisions and advances in the practice of medicine.

  • The budget adds new language to permit an abortion after 24 weeks in the event of a lethal fetal anomaly incompatible with sustained life outside the uterus and keeps an existing provision in the law that a post-24-week abortion otherwise be necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the pregnant woman.
  •  The current law requires that a minor under the age of 18 obtain the consent of a parent for an abortion or, if they cannot or do not get parental consent, they must go in front of a judge in a process called “judicial bypass”. The budget leaves this structure in place but lowers the age that a person is required to obtain parental or judicial consent from under 18 to under 16 and provides the minor with the option to have the judicial bypass hearing in person or by teleconference.