Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Meeting 2011 by Eric Ballinger

The Spring Meeting of the Board of Governors opened with the detailed explanation of the proposed two dollar increase for the 2011-2012. The simplified explanation for the dues increase is to prevent a larger increase in the near term future.

The facts are that the bar has operated with a surplus for the last four years, however the bar has also operated with a budget deficit for the past four years as well. The surplus comes from dues increases over the past years as well as increases in membership that resulted in a two million dollar surplus in 2007. However the Bar has been operating a deficit due to the recent economy. This is mainly due to a number of programs that were funded by the Georgia Bar Foundation from IOLTA funds as well as taking on a number of new programs. Some of these programs include the Military Legal Assistance Program, Law Related Education and Mock Trial. These expenses have increased the Bar's budget by eight hundred thousand dollars. The projections show that with no Bar dues increase, there would need to be a dues increase in five years of thirty dollars per member.

The projection of the finance committee is to increase dues by two dollars per member for the next five years would allow to spend down the surplus and gradually increase dues. While this board was not proposing the dues for the next five years, this proposal is a start on that "glide path" of Bar dues increase. This also takes into consideration that the Bar Center is now able to handle more tenants since it was paid off, to include the Prosecuting Attorneys Council and Public Defender's Standard and Training Council.

There was healthy debate. Some proposed to go ahead and make the incremental dues increase for the next five years. There was also debate, lead by David Cannon, Jr., that there should be no dues increase and the bar needs to look to eliminating some programs and reducing the budget. While the dues increase did pass by a majority, there will be more discussion on making budget cuts. If your would like to discuss this further, contact me, Eric Ballinger or David Cannon, Jr. to talk about the programs the bar has to offer and what ones you would not mind seeing cut.

In other business, there was a review of the 2011 Legislative session. This year is heralded the best year for the bar in the Legislature. The main highlight is the Legislature passing the new Evidence Code, but there were also other successes in changes to the Public Defender funding and insuring the our Courts are adequately funded for the next year. The Bar President and its legislative team maintains a regular presence at the Capitol each year to insure

President Tate also made presentations to the families of Judges Debra Bernes and John Ruffin for their service to the bench, bar and the community.

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