Week 3: January 22-26
Details on previous weeks are also available.
A list of Florida Bar positions on legislative issues is available here.
Week 3 is when session gets “real.” The pomp of the first week has concluded, and the rhythm of the second week continues at a more harried pace. In addition to the hundreds of bills moving through the process, the House and Senate rolled out the first drafts of their respective budgets. As you might expect, the initial budgets are vastly different in many policy areas, especially in education and health care funding. Working to resolve these differences will be on the front burner for the remainder of the legislative session.
Following is a summary of issues important to The Florida Bar:
APPOINTMENTS TO THE JUDICIAL NOMINATING COMMISSIONS
HB 753 on the House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee Agenda.
Four bills have been introduced dealing with appointments to the Judicial Nominating Commissions.
Two bills, HB 753 and SB 1030, are opposed by The Florida Bar and fall under the position adopted by the Board of Governors opposing any changes to the current JNC process that would impair the independence of the commissions.
HB 753 by Rep. Frank White, R-Pensacola, would remove the Florida Bar member appointments to the commissions recommended to the governor by The Florida Bar Board of Governors. Instead, the bill would provide that the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives would each appoint two Florida Bar members to the commissions.
SB 1030 by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, would also remove the Florida Bar member appointments to commissions recommended to the governor by The Florida Bar Board of Governors. It would provide that the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives recommend to the governor at least three, but no more than six, nominees for each of the four positions required to be Florida Bar members.
Other bills, SB 420 and HB 477 would reinstate the composition of the judicial nominating commissions as it existed in § 20(5), Fla. Const. and § 43.29, Fla. Stat. (2000). The bills would also provide that five members of each commission could not be from the same political party. The members of the commissions could not serve on more than one commission, serve as a member of a judicial qualifications commission, hold any elective or appointive state, federal, or other pollical office, or be appointed to any state judicial office for two years after serving on a commission.
The Florida Bar supports a merit-based process for selecting Florida judges through independent judicial nominating commissions and opposes any changes to the current JNC process that would impair the independence of the commissions.
LEGISLATIVE REVIEW OF FEDERAL AND STATE COURT RULINGS
HM 137 by Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, petitions the U.S. Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution to provide “that any law, resolution, or other legislative act declared void by the United States Supreme Court or a United States court of appeals may be deemed active and operational if agreed to by Congress pursuant to a joint resolution adopted by a 60 percent vote of each chamber within 5 years the ruling becomes final.” It also includes in the amendment that “any state law, resolution, or other legislative act declared void by the respective state’s appellate or highest court may be deemed active and operational, notwithstanding the court’s ruling, if agreed to by such respective state’s legislature pursuant to a joint resolution adopted by a 60 percent vote of each chamber of such state’s legislature within 5 years after the date the ruling becomes final, unless such 60 percent vote threshold is revised by such state through its constitutional amendment process.”
There is no companion measure in the Senate.
The Florida Bar opposes amendment to the United States Constitution that restricts or overturns the courts’ authority to review the constitutional validity of legislation.
APPOINTMENT OF ATTORNEYS FOR DEPENDENT CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Senate bill poised to pass the Senate.
SB 146 by Sens. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, and Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, and HB 57 by Reps. Frank White, R-Pensacola, and Patricia Williams, D-Fort Lauderdale, authorizes the payment of due process costs when a court-appointed pro bono attorney represents a dependent child with special needs. The due process costs include the costs of court reporting and transcriptions, expert witnesses, mental health professionals, reasonable pretrial consultation fees and costs, and certain travel expenses.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM DIRECT-SUPPORT ORGANIZATION
Both bills advanced.
SB 222 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously and is now available for consideration by the full Senate. HB 6021 passed the full House by a vote of 107-0.
JURISDICTION OF COUNTY COURTS
House committee bill introduced.
SB 1384 by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, increases the limit of the amount in controversy in county court from $15,000 to $100,000. The legislation also requires an adjustment to the limit for inflation every 10 years. No committee hearings have been held on the Senate bill. The House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee has filed and approved for introduction a committee bill that increases the jurisdictional threshold between county court and circuit courts from $15,000 to $50,000 and requires the Florida Supreme Court to adjust the jurisdictional threshold beginning in 2020 and every five years thereafter based on the Consumer Price Index. The bill will now receive an official bill number.
CERTIFICATION OF JUDGES
Both bills moving through committee process.
CS/SB 1396 by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and HB 5301 by the House Subcommittee on Justice Appropriations conform the number of trial court judgeships authorized by statute to the Florida Supreme Court’s latest certification of need for additional judges. Specifically, the bills add two circuit court judgeships to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Orange and Osceola counties, and two county court judgeships to Hillsborough County. The bills also decreases the number of county court judgeships as follows: one from Escambia County, two from Pasco County, one from Putnam County, one from Alachua County, one from Polk County, three from Brevard County, one from Charlotte County and one from Collier County. Although the court decertified the need for one county court judge in Monroe County, CS/SB 1396 does not reduce the number in Monroe County, while HB 5301 reduces the number from four to three.
2018-2019 FLORIDA STATE BUDGET
Preliminary budgets released.
The House and Senate released preliminary budgets. This is the first step in the budget deliberation process. We anticipate that these budget proposals will pass their respective chambers the week of Jan. 29, thus setting the stage for the budget conference process. Included in the proposed budgets were the following key court issues:
- The Senate provides salary increases to the Supreme Court justices (from $178,420 to $220,600) and for the District Courts of Appeal judges (from $169,554 to $186,509). The House proposed budget does not include any salary increases.
- The Senate provides $250,000 for an IT Security Assessment and Remediation Project in the Supreme Court, OSCA and DCAs as part of a cybersecurity initiative for the judicial branch.
- The Senate restores $2 million cut from the court’s budget during the 2017 session.
- The Senate funds $8,229,279 for IT equipment − CAPS viewers, digital court reporting, court interpreting and bandwidth.
- The House provides $8 million to purchase an existing facility in the Tampa Bay area to renovate that facility into a long-term courthouse for the Second District Court of Appeal.
- The House reduces funding to the trial courts by $1 million.
In addition, both the House and Senate budgets contain provisions that allow an agency head, at that person’s discretion, to pay for Florida Bar membership fees and CLE costs for employees who are required to be a member of the Bar as a condition of employment.
The Florida Bar continues to meet with legislators on essential court funding issues such as pay increases, technology and facility improvements.
Link to the court’s legislative budget request: http://floridafiscalportal.state.fl.us/Publications.aspx?AgyID=2200
We hope you find these summaries useful.
To see bills relating to a particular bar group or area of practice, go to “Legislation of Interest to the Legal Profession” on the Bar website.
For more detailed information on specific legislation tracked by the Bar, visit the Legislation Committee’s page on the Bar website.