July 20, 2002 Senate Finance Committee Chair Alicia "Chucky" Hansen made an exception to her insistence on line-item budgets on Friday when she agreed to a lump-sum version for the Office of the Inspector General for Fiscal Year 2003.
Hansen has been at odds with the executive branch since the FY 2002 hearings, when she instituted line-item budgets across the board, and department and agency heads have been trooping to her committee in recent months petitioning for transfers of funds to meet immediate needs. Despite repeated requests from the governor to revert to lump-sum budgeting, Hansen has remained firm in her stance.
The matter came up Friday as Inspector General Steven Van Beverhoudt presented his FY 2003 budget request before the committee. He asked for $1.56 million, rather than the $1 million that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has proposed.
Hansen said the lump sum budget would "allow the office to function the way it has to function."
Van Beverhoudt said on Saturday morning that he is very relieved about the lump-sum budget. "I have a lot of small items, and I can't be running to the Legislature to ask about $10,000," he said. "It's a waste of time when I have a lot of funds to move around as I need."
The Office of Inspector General is the oversight agency for all three branches of government and their instrumentalities. Its tasks include conducting audits, monitoring departmental operations, and investigating suspected fraud, waste and abuse in government. In May, the Legislature confirmed Van Beverhoudt's reappointment to a third term as Inspector General, a post he has held since 1989.
Van Beverhoudt also asked the lawmakers to grant his office the powers of peace officers. He said that criminal investigations require the use of subpoenas and search warrants. Without peace-officer status, he said, his personnel are dependent on other law-enforcement agencies to perform these duties. Again, the committee agreed to his request.
Another notable changed appeared in the making at Friday's hearing when Territorial Court Chief Judge Maria Cabret urged the creation of a new territorial supreme court, an appellate body which she said would make the judicial system more efficient.
Sen. Carlton Dowe told Cabret that a number of senators already have rallied behind the idea. He asked Cabret to provide the Legislature information on the costs and other requirements associated with the establishment of a higher court, a move all of the committee members appeared to favor.
For the coming fiscal year, Cabret requested $27.5 million for the judicial branch, $2.9 million more than the courts received for Fiscal Year 2002. The judge said the increased amount is necessary to uphold statutory duties, adequately serve the public, meet operation expenses, achieve full computerization and improve caseload management. She also said there is a need for a judge to be assigned permanently to the Family Division.
Hansen asked the judge her opinion about a 13-year-old being tried for a crime as an adult. Cabret deferred, saying she would prefer not to go on record with an opinion on the proposed law to reduce the age at which a defendant can be tried as an adult in certain cases.
District Court Judge Raymond Finch, however, felt no such constraints. He said he unequivocally does not support the law. He said the responsibility should not be placed on the court; rather, "We need to look at the various social problems that need to be addressed."
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