Week 8: February 26-March 2
Details on previous weeks are also available.
A list of Florida Bar positions on legislative issues is available here.
Week 8 of the nine-week legislative session is the point in the process where policy and budget issues mix and where one week can feel like one year. The budget conference process began Tuesday evening [Feb. 27], and the Appropriations Subcommittees spent several days meeting early in the morning and later in the evening to hammer out their budget differences. In between these meetings, legislators kept up the hectic pace of policy meetings and floor debate. Meanwhile, the Senate announced a rare floor meeting for Saturday to debate the legislative drafted to respond to the Parkland tragedy. All signs indicate the Legislature is on track to complete the regularly scheduled legislative session by Friday.
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). Neither bill has been heard in committee.
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 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 final action
JURISDICTION OF COUNTY COURTS
House and Senate bills advance.
SB 1396 by Sens. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and HB 7061 by the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee increase the jurisdictional amount for civil county court cases to $50,000 from $15,000. The Senate bill passed the Appropriations Subcommittee in Week 8 and is now available to be heard by the full Senate. The House bill was read for a second time by the entire House and has been placed on the March 5 calendar for its third reading.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE DATA COLLECTION PROPOSAL
House passes “Gold Standard” legislation, and Senate bill is available for consideration.
HB 7071 by the House Judiciary Committee and SB 1218 by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, are aimed at having more open and transparent data within the criminal justice system. Under the proposals, 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. HB 7001 passed the House by a vote of 112- 1 on Feb. 21; SB 1218 passed its final committee in Week 8 and is now available for consideration by the full Senate.
CERTIFICATION OF JUDGES
Senate bill scheduled for final committee hearing.
HB 5301 by the House Subcommittee on Justice Appropriations conforms the number of trial court judgeships authorized by statute to the Florida Supreme Court’s latest certification of need for additional judges. Specifically, HB 5301 adds two circuit court judgeships to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Orange and Osceola counties, and two county court judgeships to Hillsborough County. HB 5301 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, one from Collier County, one from Monroe County and one from Leon County. 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. SB 1396 by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, also changes the number of trial court and county court judgeships authorized by statute. Specifically, SB 1396 adds two circuit judgeships to the Ninth Judicial Circuit, which includes Orange and Osceola counties, and adds five new county judgeships – two in Hillsborough County and one each in Citrus, Columbia and Flagler counties. On March 2, SB 1396 passed the Appropriations Committee, its final stop and is now available to be considered by the full Senate.
2018-2019 FLORIDA STATE BUDGET
Budget conference begins.
The Senate and House began the budget conference process in Week 8. The Criminal & Civil Justice Committee met several times and resolved a number of differences. Issues that were not resolved by Friday morning were “bumped” to the Appropriations Chair Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Doral. Two issues that have not been resolved and have been bumped are: restoration of budget cuts that were made to the trial court budget last year and $8 million for the purchase and renovation of a Tampa location for the 2nd DCA.
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.