There's a shortage of attorneys willing to take child welfare cases in western Massachusetts, and state legislators are trying to address the issue.
Last fall, the state's top judge said too many cases in which parents could lose custody of their children were being postponed because there weren't enough lawyers to handle them, especially in the western part of the state.
He called the situation a constitutional emergency, and asked the legislature to raise the hourly rate the attorneys get paid.
A spending bill passed by the state House would allow the rate to go from $55 to $75 an hour -- at least temporarily.
Representative Jeffrey Sanchez is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
"We want to make sure that our court system is able to quickly resolve the issues to provide stability to children who are extremely vulnerable," he said.
The extra money is not guaranteed. The state Senate also passed a spending bill, but did not include funding for the lawyers. Legislators will work out the differences.