With a promise from judges not to ask for salary increases during the next legislative session, lawmakers approved significant increases in judicial salaries on a staggered schedule.
"Lawmakers were persuaded to maintain the integrity of the third branch of government and avoid a potential crisis," said Bill Vickrey, State Court Administrator. "Had there not been significant salary increases, the state would have lost many excellent judges. Current salaries are out of line."Associate Supreme Court justices will receive an increase from $64,000 to $69,000 effective July 1. On Jan. 1, 1990, the salary will increase to $75,000. Other state judges' salaries will increase proportionately.
Legislators are requiring the Judiciary Council to provide $175,000 toward the salary increases by consolidating staff positions in the court system.
Judges will not miss having to lobby for salary increases next year, said Vickrey. "It puts everyone in an uncomfortable position."
To improve the professionalism of Justices of the Peace and consolidate court boundaries, lawmakers passed legislation overhauling the JP system.
JPs will be required to have at least a high school education and pass performance evaluations. Organized jurisdiction will eliminate judge shopping.
Louise York, justice court administrator, said the new law improves service while maintaining the local, "people's courts" flavor.
Vickrey was pleased lawmakers approved funding for court facilities, including $35,000 for a feasibility study of a new courts complex in Salt Lake and $4.6 million for construction of a Sandy circuit court building.
Funding for completion of the Gunnison Regional Prison at a price tag of $18 million was a priority for the Legislature, said Ken Shulsen, director of administrative services for the Corrections Department. The new prison, scheduled for completion in 1990, will accommodate 623 maximum security beds.
Commissioner of Public Safety Doug Bodrero touted a new sophisticated fingerprint system, approved by lawmakers, as a tool to revolutionize law enforcement. The Automatic Fingerprint Identification System will enable a police officer in Utah to compare a fingerprint found at the scene of a crime with 12 million fingerprint cards recorded in 11 western states.
"We will be able to identify and isolate those same repeat offenders that are responsible for a majority of the crimes," said Bodrero.
Law enforcement officers received a boost in their battle against drugs in the passage of a controversial bill that controls the sale of chemicals used to make illicit drugs.