The Ohio State Senate Wednesday approved a bill passed earlier in the House that would reduce the number of judges on the Youngstown Municipal Court from three to two.
The bill passed by a 26-6 vote in the Senate, said Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras.
The bill was introduced in the House by state Rep. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, and Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown. Betras said the bill will go back to the House for an unrelated amendment before it is sent to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
"We had to make a difficult decision to eliminate a judge to save money for the city of Youngstown," state Sen. Joe Schiavoni said. "In the 1950s, the city had 60 percent more people than it does today and needed three judges. We looked at other cities of similar size to Youngstown and none have three municipal judges."
Schiavoni, D-Boardman, says a municipal judge earns about $120,000 a year. The position also has bailiff and other staff members.
"The money save can be used for other needs in the city," he said.
There are some opposed to the move now, saying that a third judge should be appointed and the issue studied further. They say that caseload does not paint an accurate picture of the work the court does and that having only two judges will eliminate such programs as housing court and veterans court, which are not mandated programs.
Hagan has been a proponent of eliminating the third judge position since former Judge Robert Douglas retired this summer. He said the caseload and population does not support the court having three judges.
Hagan also wants to combine all the courts below the common pleas level into one metropolitan style municipal court. That proposal is also being studied by the Mahoning County Bar Association.
State law requires a judge for every 50,000 people, and Youngstown has a population of about 67,000. Kasich has held off appointing a judge since Douglas retired.
Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court Maureen O'Connor has supported the city eliminating the third judge.
The Mahoning County Bar Association has also recommended that the court move from three to two judges after a committee studies the issue.