(HARRISBURG) – – Legislation which would allow county commissioners in Montour County and several other small counties to determine the full-time status of the county district attorney has been unanimously approved by the Senate Local Government Committee. Introduced by Senator John R. Gordner (R-27), Senate Bill 1317 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
The legislation would permit commissioners in eighth class counties to reclassify the services of a full-time district attorney as part-time, if the commissioners are notified by the sitting district attorney that he or she intends to retire at the end of the current term of office. “The reclassification would occur when the current district attorney’s term expires, and there is no intent to seek re-election, because the D.A. entered office with the understanding the job would be full-time,” said Senator Gordner. “Likewise, the incoming district attorney would seek office knowing the position was part-time.”
In 2005, the General Assembly passed legislation to allow county district attorneys to assume full-time status. Additional court costs imposed upon defendants were targeted to meet the state’s sixty-five percent share of the full-time district attorneys’ salaries, however, the Criminal Justice Enhancement Account has failed to meet the required costs. Last year, the General Assembly took additional steps to reimburse counties for district attorney salaries.
However, Senator Gordner said payments to the counties continue to lag behind actual costs incurred. “On June 11, counties received a partial payment of just under $50,000, but the payment was to reimburse counties for expenses occurred in 2008,” said Senator Gordner. “The Commonwealth still owes counties over $2 million for district attorney salaries from 2008 and nearly $7 million for 2009. This is unacceptable.”
“Regardless of the health of the account, smaller counties should have the option to again re-visit the issue of the need for and expense of a full-time district attorney,” said Senator Gordner. “My legislation will allow for this flexibility.”