Friday, June 15, 2012

Fines and Fees - A look back

With today being June 15, the eighth anniversary of former Governor Purdue signing House Bill 1 EX into law is upon us.  I find myself thinking back to the early days of the Fines and Fees Division and the Authority.  My entire Authority life has been intertwined with fines and fees.  As a young temporary employee, I indexed thousands of monthly disbursement reports.  Later, I graduated to answering the phone, an often fearful endeavor!  Questions like, “Does brain and spinal apply to DUI violations?” caused moments of panic until I consulted my trusty 2004 Fines and Fees book to answer, “Ma’am, according to my book, it states it does apply to DUI violations.”  I was always grateful to have my “cheat sheet,” but at the same time, I was overwhelmed wondering how I would ever learn all these surcharges and deductions!  Now, some 7½ years later, I find myself teaching classes, reviewing forms and, in general, spouting fines and fees acronyms as if everyone knows what I’m talking about!

I began working with the Authority in October 2004 and am a little sad I missed the really early days of fines and fees.  I love to hear stories of the huge meetings conducted throughout the state for all court types informing them of upcoming changes due to HB 1 EX.  I love hearing how Mike Holiman would set up speakers before the meeting and blast music to welcome everyone or hearing someone ask, “So we can’t buy police cars with the money and pay later?”  Ah, to have gone to those meetings.   I have found that nothing seems to cause more irritation and consternation than fines and fees!

Through the years, there have been many changes: the creation of driver’s education training fund, the increase in clerk’s retirement fund and  the creation of the judicial operation fund fee, to name a few.  With each change, my “cheat sheet” gets longer and longer and training classes have more and more exceptions to point out.  Each legislative session brings much anticipation and bill watching.  As the session begins, I find myself looking at new bills seeing if they affect fines and fees.  Never did I think I would find reading bills such an integral part of my life.  Yet, in spite of my diligence, sometimes I still get surprised by a bill which passed that I didn’t find until after it became law.  Thankfully, clerks are just as diligent (if not more so) and often bring these bills to my attention helping keep our fines and fees department on the ball!
In looking back over the past eight years, I see how much has changed and evolved.  Although some of the changes have been difficult, they become easier with each passing day, month and year.  Out of all of this, there is one good change that has occurred. I certainly know more about fines and fees today than I did in 2004 and I look forward to knowing even more in another 8 years!