It may be too soon to judge how much revenue is being generated by increases in court and bail bond fees in Alabama, the lawmaker behind the increase said last week.
"It will take a few months for them to start reporting," said Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana.
When lawmakers passed the legislation last year, supporters said the bill would generate about $40 million for courts.
The bill took effect in the summer.
The legislation raised court costs for a traffic ticket by $25. Costs for filing a civil lawsuit increased by $45, and the court fee for a criminal case increased by $40. The cost of going to small claims court went up $15.
Tracking the revenue may be complicated because the funds don't go into one pot. Instead, they are split among various agencies and courts.
Last month, the TimesDaily filed an open records request with the Alabama Office of Courts to find out how much money had been collected to date as a result of the increase.
The newspaper was given last week the amount collected between June 21, when the increases went into effect, and Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The totals represented the amount collected by state courts and 14 municipalities that use the State Judicial Information System.
Increases on civil cases had generated about $1.65 million, while increases on criminal cases generated about $1.5 million in the two months.
The amount of money generated by the increases will likely be of interest to lawmakers when they return to Montgomery next month for the 2013 session. The increased fees were to at least make up for a portion of reduction in state funding of courts.
The state's general fund appropriation to the court system decreased by about 23 percent, to $79.4 million this budget year.
Another aspect of the bill, a $35 fee to bail out of jail, also is being collected. But some sheriffs who receive a portion of the fee aren't spending it yet. They're waiting for a lawsuit claiming the fee infringes on the constitutional right to bail to be settled in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The state attorney general's office is arguing the fee is too small to be an impediment, the AP has reported.
"We are keeping (that money) in a separate fund," Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said. "Whatever they're sending to the sheriff's office, we're not spending it."
Lauderdale County Administrator Brenda Bryant said the bail fee, which went into effect in August, had generated about $900 as of the end of the year.
After meeting with local school and law enforcement officers last week, a state representative from north Alabama said he will move forward with his idea to allow school teachers to become reserved deputies or reserved police officers.
State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, said he will begin talking to state education and law enforcement organizations for support.
He said there are differences between his idea, which he will put on paper as a bill in the upcoming legislative session, and other suggestions to arm teachers in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
"We're not arming school employees; we're arming reserve deputies who happen to be teachers," Morrow said after meeting with three dozen Franklin County school administrators and law enforcement officials.
"We've had reserve deputies forever in Alabama," Morrow said. "Now, let's bring it into the schools."
Morrow's proposal would require that local law enforcement train and oversee what he calls an "emergency security force." The unit could include retired employees.
Funding for training and weapons would come from the state's education budget, Morrow said.
Morrow said school safety is his priority for the legislative session that starts next month.
Other lawmakers agreed with that sentiment last week during a meeting, but exactly how to make schools more secure — or how to pay for increased safety measures — is still up for debate.
Training and arming teachers is one idea, as is putting more resource officers in schools. But the latter appears to be a costly proposition. One lawmaker said it would cost the state $50 million to put an officer in every school.
State Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, suggested last week after a safety meeting in Montgomery that paying for more security at schools could take priority over giving educators cost-of-living increases in 2014.
"There is a push by (the Alabama Education Association) to give teachers a raise," he said. "Should that money be used instead to hire more school resource officers?"