Week 6: February 12-16
Details on previous weeks are also available.
A list of Florida Bar positions on legislative issues is available here.
The Legislature was briskly moving through its business of Week 6 – crowded committee agendas, rumors about the budget conference – when the news about the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reached Tallahassee. Legislators joined people from around the world in expressing their grief. House and Senate members representing the Parkland area immediately left for home. They were joined there by all of Florida’s statewide elected officials and several members of the legislative leadership. By Thursday, House and Senate leaders began discussing ways to better fund mental health care, school security, training for teachers to identify students at risk for mental illness, and other proposals that might prevent future tragedies.
As the Legislature moves into the final three weeks of the session, expect the response to this massacre to remain at top of legislators’ minds.
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
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, SB 146 was substituted for the House companion measure on the House floor, and the House passed the Senate bill by a vote of 109- 0. The bill will now be sent to the governor for his final action.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM DIRECT-SUPPORT ORGANIZATION
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 sent to the governor for his action.
JURISDICTION OF COUNTY COURTS
Both bills clear committees in Week 6.
SB 1384 by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and HB 7061 by the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee amend s. 34.01, F.S., which defines the county courts’ jurisdiction over certain types of cases and subject matters. SB 1384 initially increased the jurisdictional amount of the cases the county court may decide to $100,000 and required that the jurisdictional amount be adjusted for inflation or deflation every 10 years after July 1, 2018, using the reports and data provided by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics or its predecessor. On Feb. 13, SB 1384 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 10-0. The bill was amended to change the county court jurisdictional amount to $50,000 and delayed the implementation until Jan. 1, 2020. The Senate bill has two committee hearings remaining. HB 7061 also increases the jurisdictional threshold between county courts and circuit courts from $15,000 to $50,000 through June 30, 2020, and adjusts it thereafter by the Consumer Price Index. On Feb. 13, HB 7061 passed the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee by a vote of 10-0. The bill is referred next to the Judiciary Committee.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE DATA COLLECTION PROPOSAL
House bill and amended Senate bill slated for action on Feb. 20.
HB 7071 by the House Judiciary Committee is aimed at having more open and transparent data within the criminal justice system. House Speaker Richard Corcoran noted that 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 in order 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 rearrest, reconviction, reincarceration and probation revocation within a three-year period. The House committee bill passed the Justice Appropriations Committee on Feb. 13 by a vote of 11-0, and the bill has been scheduled for consideration by the full House chamber on Feb. 20.
On Feb. 12, SB 1678 by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, dealing with seized and forfeited property, was amended in the Criminal Justice Committee to also require certain entities to collect and transmit to FDLE specific criminal data similar to HB 7071. As amended, CS/SB 1678 passed the committee by a 5-1 vote. The Senate bill is slated to be heard next in the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 20.
CERTIFICATION OF JUDGES
Amended Senate bill clears committee.
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. On Feb. 14, CS/SB 1396 passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice by a vote of 6-0 as a proposed committee substitute. Among other changes, the Senate bill was amended to increase the number of county judges in Citrus, Columbia and Flagler Counties from one to two and in Hillsborough County from 17 to 19. The Senate bill has one committee hearing left in the Appropriations Committee.
2018-2019 FLORIDA STATE BUDGET
House hosts budget conference this session
In Week 5, the full House and Senate considered their respective budgets and budget amendments on the chamber floors. 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.
This session, the House will host the budget conference process.
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.