State Senate Panel Passes Bill Giving Coroners Big Raises

Dave Williams

Friday, March 22nd, 2024

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Coroners in Georgia would receive hefty pay raises under legislation that cleared a state Senate committee Tuesday.

House Bill 625 would upgrade coroner to a full-time position and set a range of salaries, depending on the population of the county they serve.

The minimum salary for coroners would be $35,000 a year. Minimum salaries would go much higher for coroners in the largest counties that use coroners. Under current law, coroners in many counties earn no more than $3,600 annually.

Deputy coroners would be paid $250 for each case they handle, up from the current $175.

“We’re not trying to put a burden on counties,” state Rep. Danny Mathis, R-Cochran, told members of the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee Tuesday. “What we’re trying to do is compensate people in these positions who are competent.”

Mathis, who served as coroner in Bleckley County for 18 years, said the coroner system costs counties far less to operate than systems that use full-time medical examiners. Only four counties in Georgia – Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett – use medical examiners, he said.

But Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, who represents six counties in southeastern Georgia, said he has been deluged with emails from county officials alarmed at the huge pay hikes in the bill.

“They tell me that they’re not prepared, they can’t afford it, that it’s not in their budget,” he said.

Todd Edwards, deputy director of governmental affairs for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, said counties have the legal authority to raise their coroners’ salaries if they so choose.

“This might better be taken care of at the local level,” he said.

The committee amended the legislation Tuesday in an effort to resolve some of the concerns. One change would delay the bill’s effective date from Jan. 1, 2025, to the beginning of 2026 to give counties more time to incorporate the higher pay in their budgets.

A second amendment would delete from the legislation a provision calling for coroners to receive retroactive cost-of-living and longevity increases after the new salaries take effect.

The bill, which the House passed overwhelmingly late last month, now moves to the Senate Rules Committee to schedule a floor vote.