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County Attorney Salaries: Legislative History

House Bill 12 Fact Sheet (2007 Legislative Session)

The Montana Department of Justice, Montana County Attorney’s Association, and the Montana Association of Counties worked cooperatively on the issue of County Attorney salaries and how services are provided to the state for felony prosecution and abuse and neglect case services and how those services are funded for several years.  House Bill 12 came about as the result of these efforts and the work of the 2005-2006 Law and Justice Legislative Interim Committee.

HB 12 was the result of a cooperative effort during the 2005-2006 legislative interim between the Law and Justice Interim Committee, the Department of Justice, the County Attorney’s Association, and MACo.  The study was charged with looking at how services are provided and funded for felony prosecution and abuse and neglect case services.  HB 12 provides that:

  • County Attorney salaries are to be set by the County Compensation Board and approved by the County Commissioners.  This applies to both full and part time County Attorneys.
  • The County Attorney salary for FY 2007 (current year – 07/01/2006 to 06/30/2007) is calculated by adding the portion of the County Attorney’s salary paid by the state and the portion of the County Attorney’s salary by the county.  (State Portion + County Portion = Salary)
  • The FY 08 (07/01/2007 to 06/30/2008) minimum salary is to be calculated based on the FY 2007 total salary, including the state and county shares, plus at least the same increase given to all other elected officials (i.e. COLA, flat amount, longevity, etc). This is the minimum and does not preclude a county from increasing the salary by any additional amount.
  • There is no longer a 50-50 split, nor a $50,000 base for County Attorneys' salaries.  The salary for County Attorneys is to be paid totally by the county.
  • A County Attorney’s salary cannot exceed a District Court Judge's salary, except in the case where adding the same amount to the County Attorney’s salary--as is given to other elected officials--would make the County Attorney’s salary higher than the District Court Judge’s.  In this situation, the increase must be an amount sufficient to increase the salary to AT LEAST the same as a judge’s, but the county may grant the full increase, which would make the county attorney’s salary more than a District Court Judge's.
  • A County Attorney’s salary should not be reduced.
  • The County is responsible for payment of 100% of a County Attorney’s salary, including all taxes and any benefits included by County policy or state law (health insurance, retirement, etc).  The state will no longer be issuing paychecks to County Attorneys.
  • The County Attorney’s salary is not directly tied to a District Court Judge's salary unless the county chooses to do so.
  • The payments received from the State beginning July 1, 2007 have no direct connection to a County Attorney’s actual salary.  This is a payment from the state to the county for services.  It is not intended to be used as a basis for calculating County Attorney’s salaries; however, Commissioners may do so if they choose. 
  • The legislation was not intended to create a windfall for counties but rather to provide predictability and stability along with the ability of a county to remain competitive in the local job market so as to be able to attract and retain good attorney’s to the position of County Attorney.

Additional information about the history of this legislation and the work of the Law and Justice Interim Committee, including minutes, reports and agenda’s can be found at:

Additional Information: 

Information about HB 12’s progress through the legislative process can be reviewed by following the links below.

January 12 - House Appropriations Hearing
Audio & Minutes
(Click on Friday, January 12th on the calendar.)

April 9 – Senate Finance and Claims Hearing
Audio & Minutes
(Click on April 9th on the calendar.)

Bill Progress Through the 2007 Legislative Session
Bill Status Report

(View the legislative progression of the bill as well as the committee and floor voting records.)