Lawmakers in Maine are considering a proposal to increase staffing in the state’s family court system to try to cope with a heavy caseload.

The proposal from Democratic Sen. Joe Baldacci of Bangor would increase the number of family law magistrates from eight to 24 by Aug. 1, 2024. It would also increase other staff in the court system.

Baldacci said residents of the state face an inability to get a timely hearing in family court. He said that “represents a threat to the stability of both Maine families and our legal system.”

If approved, the measure would allow Family Court judges to handle the initial stages of child protective cases. Currently, District Court judges deal with those cases, which have steadily increased over the past decade.

While there is now fiscal note attached to the bill yet, the cost of the new judges alone would add more than $1 million to the court system’s annual budget. Family Court judges’ base salary is $106,000 a year not including benefits, according to Amy Quinlan, spokesperson for the court system.

Quinlan said that the judicial branch supports Baldacci’s bill.

Baldacci’s proposal was the subject of a public hearing before a legislative committee on Tuesday. It would face more action in committee before going to the full Legislature.

BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.