Week 5: February 5-9
Details on previous weeks are also available.
A list of Florida Bar positions on legislative issues is available here.
Wednesday, Feb. 7, marked the halfway point, i.e. halftime, of the legislative session. But unlike Justin Timberlake’s halftime show at Super Bowl LII, halftime of the legislative session occurs with little fanfare. Legislative committees met, last-minute amendments passed and proposed budgets were debated on the floor, setting the stage for budget conference negotiations.
Following is a summary of issues important to The Florida Bar:
APPOINTMENTS TO THE JUDICIAL NOMINATING COMMISSIONS
Four bills have been introduced dealing with appointments to the Judicial Nominating Commissions.
HB 753 by Rep. Frank White, R-Pensacola, and SB 1030 by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, revise the procedures for appointing members to JNCs. As originally filed, the bills removed nominations from The Florida Bar Board of Governors to the governor. On Jan. 30, HB 753 was revised and passed by the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee by a narrow margin of 8-6.
The amended bill maintains the current JNC structure of 26 nine-member JNCs, keeps five members of each JNC appointed solely by the governor, and keeps four-year terms. This revised bill changes the method of selection of the four remaining members of each JNC to provide for appointment by the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives. Each leader will appoint two members of each JNC. Before each appointment, The Florida Bar must recommend three qualified individuals, and the president or speaker must publish a list of the individuals the president or speaker is considering for appointment, which list must include the individuals recommended by The Florida Bar. Appointments will be staggered. The bill creates a transition rule and provides that current members of JNCs will serve the remainder of their terms unless removed for cause. The Senate companion measure, SB 1030 has not been heard in any committees.
Two other bills, SB 420 by Criminal Justice Chairman Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, and HB 477 by Rep. Al Jacquet, D-Lantana, 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 revise the composition of judicial nominating commissions (JNCs) to include:
- Three members of The Florida Bar, appointed by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar, who are engaged in the practice of law, each of whom is a resident of the territorial jurisdiction served by the commission to which the member is appointed.
- Three members appointed by the governor, each of whom is a resident of the territorial jurisdiction served by the commission to which the member is appointed, of which only two may be members of The Florida Bar engaged in the practice of law.
- Three members, each of whom is a resident of the territorial jurisdiction served by the commission to which the member is appointed, and who are not members of The Florida Bar and are not engaged in the practice of law, selected and appointed by a majority vote of the members of the commission.
Additionally, the legislation stipulates that no more than five members of each commission may be of the same political party and establishes additional restrictions regarding JNC members. JNC commissioners are also prohibited from serving more than two full terms and effective July 1, 2018, the terms of all current JNC members are terminated. The legislation stipulates staggered terms for the subsequent appointments of new members. The bills also require appointing authorities to collect and release certain demographic data regarding commission members and applicants to commissions.
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
Legislation poised to pass this session.
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. On Feb. 14, HB 57 and SB 146 are scheduled for consideration in the House chamber, which in the legislative process is the final step toward passage.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM DIRECT-SUPPORT ORGANIZATION
Final passage of HB 6021.
SB 222 was considered by the full Senate on Feb. 1, and HB 6021 was substituted for the Senate bill. On Feb. 7, HB 6021 passed the full Senate by a vote of 35-0. The bill will now be enrolled and sent to the governor for his action
JURISDICTION OF COUNTY COURTS
Senate bill scheduled for first hearing in Week 6.
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. HB 7061 by the House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee 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 House bill has been referred to the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and Judiciary Committee. On Feb. 13, SB 1384 will get its first hearing in the Judiciary Committee.
CERTIFICATION OF JUDGES
HB 5301 passes full House and is postured for budget conference.
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. On Feb. 8, HB 5301 passed the House chamber by a vote of 111-0 and was immediately certified to the Senate for consideration during the upcoming budget conference negotiations. CS/SB 1396 has two committee hearings remaining. It is on the agenda for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice for Feb. 14.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE DATA COLLECTION PROPOSAL
House bill officially filed.
On Feb. 5, the House Judiciary Committee bill was officially filed as HB 7071 and has been referred to the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. The committee proposal is aimed at having more open and transparent data within the criminal justice system.
Speaker Richard Corcoran said the goal of the proposal is to better evaluate what is and is not working across the criminal justice system and to make more informed policy choices, while also making the data open and transparent to all Floridians. Under the proposal, clerks of court, state attorneys, public defenders, county jail operators and the Department of Corrections (DOC) would be required to submit specific data elements on a weekly basis to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). FDLE will publish the data on the department’s website and make it searchable by data element, county, circuit and unique identifier. The unique identifier would be created by FDLE to identify a specific subject of a criminal case, to track that person’s experience in the criminal justice system. DOC would be required to report and publish, on a quarterly basis, inmate admissions by offense type and recidivism rates. Recidivism is redefined to include rearrests, reconviction, reincarceration and probation revocation within a three-year period. There is no Senate companion bill.
2018-2019 FLORIDA STATE BUDGET
House and Senate chambers postured for budget conference.
In Week 5, the full House and Senate considered their respective budgets and budget amendments on the chamber floors. Early on Feb. 8, the Senate amended and passed its $87.3 billion budget bill by a 33-1 vote. The budget proposal, together with budget implementing and conforming bills, was sent to the House for consideration. In the afternoon that same day, the House debated and substituted its budget version for the Senate’s bill, and immediately certified all the budget bills back to the Senate, setting the stage for the budget negotiations. Both chambers are now procedurally postured to begin the annual budget conference process.
Both the House and Senate budgets contain provisions that allow agency heads, at their 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.