Bill by Sen. Bergeson : Boost in Fines Would Build Courthouses

Times Staff Writer

State Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) has introduced legislation that would allow Orange County to pay for new courthouses by collecting about $5 million a year in increased fines on traffic and parking tickets and from sentenced criminals.

The money would go toward a planned $22-million Juvenile Court facility in Orange and a $100-million Superior Court annex in Santa Ana.

Bergeson's bill would increase surcharges on fines and forfeitures collected in Orange and six other counties. The surcharges would double to $2 for every $10 collected on non-parking fines. A $1.50 surcharge on parking fines would be imposed in Orange and five other counties.

The money collected through the surcharges would be deposited in a special courthouse construction fund and could be used only for that purpose.

The bill is almost identical to one approved by the Senate last year but killed in the Assembly in a move led by former Garden Grove Assemblyman Richard Robinson, who gave up his seat in the Legislature in an unsuccessful bid for Congress last November.

"This is the only way at the present time to provide the needed funds," Bergeson said Wednesday. "Without Robinson's strong opposition, this bill has a very good chance of success."

In opposing the bill last year, Robinson called it a stop-gap measure that would undermine the chances for meaningful reform of the state's system of paying for the operation of trial courts.

Last year's bill also was opposed by the state Judicial Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Automobile Club of Southern California and the California State Automobile Assn. But Dennis Carpenter, the county's lobbyist in Sacramento, said he believed the county could win passage of the legislation this time.

"Not everybody likes the idea of these penalty assessments," Carpenter said. "Last year we were very close to getting this bill through. We got it to the Assembly, but Dick (Robinson) was the major force that ended up making it not happen. There is other opposition we'll have to deal with, but (last year) we were never able to get to it."

Bergeson said she believes the assessments are "a most appropriate user fee" because they require those who use the courthouses to pay for them.

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