By Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho
I am asking for your help to support House Bill 640 to continue to provide free legal services to low income people in Idaho.
Idaho Legal Aid Services [ILAS] provides free civil legal services to seniors and low income people throughout Idaho. They cannot charge for services and depend on federal monies and grants to serve their clients. In recent years, all of the other 49 states have funded their legal services providers through filing fees, appropriations, or both. In 2006, the Idaho State Bar approved a resolution supporting a filing fee or state funding for ILAS. At first they tried for an appropriation but couldn’t make that work as the recession kicked in. In the last few years they have been told the only way to get funding is through a civil filing fee surcharge. The Idaho Supreme Court supports the filing fee bill.
The bill is to be heard by the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee on Tuesday, March 13, 3012. (HB640 is sponsored by Reps. Cliff Bayer and Lynn Luker). The bill would assess a $20 filing fee on most domestic relations cases. If ILAS were to get this fee, they would use it to make up the loss of $300,000 in funding from the Legal Services Corporation, their main funder. ILAS would use the funds for services to low-income (1) domestic violence victims, (2) abused/neglected children, (3) seniors facing exploitation/scams, (4) veterans and (5) wrongful foreclosures.
The full House will likely vote on the “Children and Families Legal Services Fund” Bill (HB640) shortly after it passes the Committee. Ideally, the Senate will hear the Bill soon after that. My request for help is: If you support the bill, e-mail or call your legislators and urge them to support HB640. This link will take you to the e-mail for your legislator: www.legislature.idaho.gov/about/contactbyname.cfm. Your input is important and would be very helpful.
If ILAS fails to obtain this funding, it is likely they will have to cut back the services they provide to seniors and others.
As a board member of ILAS for the last few years, I have seen first hand how they has made life altering improvements in many disadvantaged people’s lives. Please take a moment to express your support. Thank you for your consideration.