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January 29, 2013

DAs seeking more money for offices

NORMAN — Add the state’s district attorneys to the list of agencies asking for bigger state appropriations this legislative session. The 27 district attorneys are asking an overall $7 million boost to their state appropriations.

The DAs are being squeezed because a longtime revenue source for them has dwindled. They used to collect on insufficient fund checks passed to local merchants. A check writer had the option of paying the money back, plus a fee to the DA, and prosecution was stopped.

Because more people pay with credit and debit cards these days, fewer checks are written. Of those that are written, merchants can electronically debit an account, eliminating the payday float of years past.

Additionally, as reported this past Sunday in The Transcript, DAs are losing some offender-paid service fees to private vendors. Judges have the option to send defendants to a for-profit agency that provides supervision.

A chart provided by the state district attorney’s association shows more than half of the DAs’ funding comes from non-appropriated funds. Supervision fees statewide make up about 22 percent of the office budgets. Bogus checks are about 11 percent and declining.

The lobbyist for the District Attorneys Association said it’s a crisis situation. District attorneys, she said, start the day worrying if they’ll have the money to fund prosecutor positions.

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