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Weekly Legislative Session Updates

2020 Session, January 14–March 3

The Florida Bar Legislative Department provides weekly updates during Florida’s Legislative Session. (See Important Florida Legislative Session Dates)

Legislative Activity at The Capitol

As the 2020 Legislative Session extended through this week, legislators, staff, the press and the lobby corps were part of a surreal moment in time where the process of dealing with legislation and the state budget unfolded simultaneously with unprecedented responses to the coronavirus pandemic. In the final days of the legislative session – it’s expected to officially conclude on Thursday, March 19th – the budget that will pass will almost certainly have to be revised. And our state leaders now face challenges hardly imagined when the legislative session commenced back in January.

Following is a summary of key information and issues of interest to The Florida Bar.

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

Court Jurisdiction – HB 1392 Headed to Governor

SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HB 7059 by the House Judiciary Committee transferred the jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear appeals of county court civil and criminal cases to the district courts of appeal. The legislation was based on the recommendations of a recent report by the Supreme Court’s Judicial Management Council’s Workgroup on Appellate Review of County Court Decisions.

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) incorporates the changes to court jurisdiction limits from SB 1510 which include:

  • Broadly eliminating the authority of the circuit courts to hear appeals from county courts in civil and criminal cases. Circuit courts, however, retain jurisdiction to hear appeals from final administrative orders of local code enforcement boards and to hear appeals and review other matters as expressly provided by law. By operation of Article V, s. 4(b)(1) of the State Constitution, the district courts of appeal will have jurisdiction on appeals from final orders of county courts in civil and criminal cases by default;
  • Allowing a county court to certify important questions to a district court of appeal only in a final judgment that is appealable to a circuit court;
  • Allowing a district court of appeal to review any order or judgment of a county court which is certified by the county court to be of great public importance; and
  • Repealing a statute that gives jurisdiction to circuit courts to hear appeals of judgments in misdemeanor cases.

On March 9th, SB 1392 passed the Senate by a vote of 40 to 0. On March 11th, the House passed SB 1392 by a vote of 118 to 0.
Link to Enrolled Version of SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392/BillText/er

Trial Court Security – HB 131 Headed to Governor

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive court security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities. The legislation also clarifies that the chief judge retains broad decision-making authority to ensure the protection of due process rights.

  • On February 20th, HB 131 passed the House by a vote of 118 to 0.
  • On March 10th, the Senate passed HB 131 by a vote of 39 to 0.

Link to Enrolled Version of HB 131: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/131/BillText/er

Jury Service – SB 738 Headed to Governor

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and HB 393 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala), allow students who are 18 to 21 years of age to be excused from a specific jury summons upon request if they are enrolled as a full-time student at a high school, state university, private post-secondary educational institution, Florida College System Institution, or career center. The bills do not affect jury service for those students older than 21 years of age. A student is not prohibited from choosing to report for jury service if they are summoned for jury service while full-time student. Individuals may only be excused for a specific jury summons based on their enrollment status as opposed to an indefinite postponement.

  • On March 6th, the Senate passed SB 738 by a vote of 37 to 2.
  • On March 11th, the House passed SB 738 by a vote of 113 to 1.

Link to Enrolled Version of SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738/BillText/er

Early Childhood Courts – HB 1105 Headed to Governor

Chapter 39, F.S., creates the dependency system charged with protecting child welfare. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) administers the state’s child welfare system and works in partnership with local communities and the courts to ensure the safety, timely permanency, and well-being of children involved in the dependency process.

SB 1324 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and HB 1105 by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R- Polk City) make a number of changes to the child welfare laws. The legislation which seeks to balance placement stability with child safety and permanency makes the following changes:

  • Requires certain training for dependency court judges on the benefits of stable placements and related issues.
  • Requires judges to consider certain factors related to placement stability when determining whether to change a child’s placement.
  • Requires DCF to notify judges of all central abuse hotline reports that are accepted for an investigation involving a child over whom the court has jurisdiction.
  • Allows DCF to file a petition to initiate court oversight when a family is receiving services from a community-based care lead agency (CBC) without court involvement, if the parent has been receiving voluntary services for a period of time.
  • Prohibits the court from ending jurisdiction if a CBC has to continue to provide an in-home safety plan for a child to live at home.
  • Amends current law to require the court and case managers to monitor relationships between foster parents and biological parents at various stages in the dependency process to encourage a productive working relationship that includes meaningful communication and mutual support.
  • Relocates language relating to quality parenting from s. 409.145, F.S., to a new section and expands it to apply to caregivers caring for children in out-of-home care. The new section directs DCF and CBCs to develop and support relationships between foster families and biological parents of children in out-of-home care, when it is safe and in the child’s best interest.
  • Allows circuit courts to create early childhood court programs and requires the Office of State Courts Administrator to contract with one or more university-based centers that have expertise in infant mental health to ensure the quality, accountability, and fidelity of the evidence-based treatment provided by such programs.
  • Requires DCF or its subcontractors to complete criminal history checks, preliminary home studies for adoptive minors and licensing home studies for family foster homes within specific time frames so children can be placed in stable homes faster.
  • Creates a process with set timeframes DCF and its subcontractors must comply with when a person is interested in adopting a child from the child welfare system.
  • Allows a CBC to demonstrate a justification of need to provide more than 35 percent of direct care services to children and families in its geographic service area.

The legislation allows the Office of the State Courts Administrator to coordinate with each participating circuit court to fill a community coordinator position for the circuit’s early childhood court program and to contract for an evaluation of the early childhood court programs to ensure the quality, accountability, and fidelity of the programs’ evidence-based treatment.

  • On March 9th, HB 1105 passed the House by a vote of 118 to 0.
  • On March 12th, HB 1105 passed the Senate by a vote of 38 to 0.

Link to Enrolled Version of HB 1105: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1105/BillText/er

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – SB 1392 Headed to Governor

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and HB 7057 by the House Judiciary Committee revise the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court. Most importantly, the bills authorize district court of appeal judges who reside within 50 miles of his or her DCA headquarters and meet certain other criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters. The legislation authorizes the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices. Additionally, the legislation specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers. Funding for the legislation is included in the Budget Conference Report for HB 5001, the General Appropriations Act. The legislation authorizes the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices. Additionally, the legislation specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers.

SB 1392 also included language to incorporate the changes to court jurisdiction limits from SB 1510. (See Court Jurisdiction section above)

  • On March 9th, SB 1392 passed the Senate by a vote of 40 to 0.
  • On March 11th, SB 1392 passed the House by a vote of 118 to 0.

Link to Enrolled Version of SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392/BillText/er

State Courts System Budget

The Legislature has extended the session until Thursday, March 19th, in order to allow time for the requisite 72-hour “cooling off” period before the budget conference report can be voted on by the respective chambers.

Below is a chart on the final status of appropriations issues and funding important to the judicial branch which are contained in the Budget Conference Report for HB 5001.

Issues Description Final Conference Report
Timely Resolution of Cases Initiatives To provide litigants with targeted services in the family and civil divisions to resolve their business and personal disputes. Funds will provide for an Online Dispute Resolution pilot project and provide staff resources for legal assistance and research, mediation, case management, and operations/administrative support. $1,855,367 (21 FTEs)
Court Interpreting Resources & Remote Technology To support immediate and critical needs for the availability of court interpreters both in person and remotely, using technology.

Funding will support statewide implementation of virtual remote interpreting.

$5,005,356 (37 FTEs)
2nd District Court of Appeals Courthouse Construction For the establishment of a new courthouse building for the 2nd DCA. The 2nd DCA is the only appellate court in the state that has operations in two locations, and consolidation into one location would significantly improve the efficiency of the court by reducing duplicative costs and streamlining operations.

$21 million

Line Item 3221A Fixed Capital Outlay Second District Court of Appeal New Courthouse Constructions From General Revenue Fund

Funds in Specific Appropriation 3221A are provided for the relocation of the 2nd District Court of Appeal. State or local land shall be sought for the relocated courthouse. A state-owned property located in Pinellas County, Florida, is the first choice for the new courthouse. The funds may be used for architectural and engineering professional services, and construction management to prepare the cost projection for the new courthouse. Funds from this appropriation may also be used for demolition or other expenses related to repurposed land, and for general site preparation, construction or relocation expenses of state workers at the repurposed site, if needed. In the event a state- owned location in Pinellas County, Florida cannot be made available, the courts shall work with the Department of Management Services to select another location. If there is no suitable state or local land available in the greater Tampa Bay area, funds may be used to purchase land including to purchase contiguous properties to state or local lands within the jurisdiction of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Problem Solving Court Database To develop, implement, and maintain a data reporting program that leverages the Florida Drug Court Case Management System; implement a statewide voluntary certification program for problem-solving courts; and provide dedicated fiscal support to problem- solving courts.

$581,568 (4 FTEs)

Page 410:

From the funds in Specific Appropriations 3198 through 3246, the Office of the State Courts Administrator shall coordinate with the circuit courts to develop or procure one or more electronic criminal justice risk assessment solutions. The solution(s) shall be a validated pretrial risk assessment instrument for all counties which will objectively analyze the risk that a criminal defendant will re-offend or fail to appear before trial and provide risk levels that will inform the court’s decision as to whether the defendant should be detained pretrial or released with or without conditions. Criminal justice agencies shall cooperate with the implementation of the tool. In determining the appropriate pretrial risk assessment instruments, the office, in collaboration with the participating criminal justice agencies, shall review existing, validated pretrial risk assessment instruments. The office shall submit to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives an interim report by February 1, 2021, which addresses the implementation status, outcomes, and whether risk assessment instruments used in problem solving courts could be included in the solution. A final report shall be issued by January 3, 2022, and shall include the preliminary outcome results from the use of the tool.

Family Court Operational Support To focus on all family court matters irrespective of funding streams, continue ongoing domestic violence projects, and support statewide and regional training. $317,446 (2 FTEs)
Certification of Additional Judges For the certification of 10 new judges for FY 2020-21, as follows: 4 circuit courts judges and 6 county court judges.

$3,411,433 (21 FTEs)

From the funds in Specific Appropriations 3222, 3224, 3236, nine positions, associated salary rate, and $1,433,945 of recurring funds and $21,591 of nonrecurring funds from the General Revenue Fund is provided for one additional circuit court judgeship in the First Judicial Circuit and the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, and two additional circuit court judgeships in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, contingent upon HB 5301 or similar legislation becoming law.

From the funds in Specific Appropriations 3238, 3240 and 3246, 12 positions, associated salary rate, and $1,927,109 of recurring funds and $28,788 of nonrecurring funds from the General Revenue Fund is provided for one additional county court judgeship in Orange County and in Lee County, and four additional county court judgeships in Hillsborough County, contingent upon HB 5301 or similar legislation becoming law.

Appellate Judiciary Travel To provide subsistence and travel reimbursement for district court of appeal judges who permanently reside more than 50 miles outside of their court’s headquarters. $125,000

Line Item 3212 Expenses From State Courts Revenue Trust Fund $125,000

Appellate Court Security To fund the 6.5 unfunded FTEs to address ongoing urgent security concerns. Currently, district court marshals use contractual or OPS dollars to hire temporary security when the court is open to the public; these funds will provide a long-term solution. $516,139
Early Childhood Courts

$1,911,799 (20 FTEs)

From the funds in Specific Appropriations 3222, 3224, and 3236, 20 positions, associated salary rate and $1,864,719 of recurring funds and $47,080 of nonrecurring funds from the General Revenue Fund is provided to the trial courts to be used for community coordinators for Early Childhood Courts (ECCs). The Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA) may coordinate with participating circuit courts to fill community coordinator positions for the circuits’ ECCs.

Problem Solving Courts Line Item 3226 Special Categories Problem Solving Courts From General Revenue Fund $10,845,555

From State Courts Revenue Trust Fund $260,000

From the funds in Specific Appropriation 3226, the Office of the State Courts Administrator shall provide a report by February 1, 2021, to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives which details the number of participants in each problem-solving court for each fiscal year the court has been operating and the types of services provided, each source of funding for each court during each fiscal year, and information on the performance of each court based upon outcome measures established by the courts.

From the funds in Specific Appropriation 3226, $9,412,527 in recurring funds from the General Revenue Fund is provided for treatment services, drug testing, case management, and ancillary services for participants in problem-solving courts, including, but not limited to, adult drug courts, juvenile drug courts, family dependency drug courts, early childhood courts, mental health courts, and veterans courts. Funds may also be used to provide training and education for multidisciplinary problem-solving court team members to gain up-to-date knowledge on best practices. The Trial Court Budget Commission shall determine the allocation of funds to the circuits. Funds distributed from this specific appropriation must be matched by local government, federal government, or private funds. The matching ratio for allocation of these funds shall be 30 percent non-state and 70 percent state funding, other than veterans court, which shall have a matching ratio of 20 percent non-state funding and 80 percent state funding. However, no match will be required for a problem-solving court that by its primary purpose or mission addresses activities for which state dollars are typically expended. Further, if the county meets the definition of a “fiscally constrained county,” as provided in section 218.67, Florida Statutes, no match will be required. In pursuing funding under this specific appropriation, a circuit may consider, among other criteria, the extent to which a problem-solving court addresses the needs of individuals with an opioid use disorder.

OPPAGA Weighted Caseload Model The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) shall develop a weighted caseload model and conduct a workload assessment of the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office in each Judicial Circuit, and the Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel offices in all five regions. In developing the weighted caseload model, OPPAGA shall include, but is not limited to, an analysis of caseload statistics based on the complexity of the various kinds of cases filed and the amount of time needed for state attorneys, public defenders and criminal conflict and civil regional counsels to resolve these cases. OPPAGA shall also analyze whether the expansion of specialty courts has impacted the workload needs of state attorney and public defender offices. OPPAGA shall recommend any needed adjustments to the number of FTE positions necessary to meet the workload needs of each state attorney, public defender and criminal conflict and civil regional counsel office by December 31, 2020.
Bar Dues Proviso Allows agency heads to expend funds for Bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment. Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment.
Employee Compensation Line Item 2014B

Effective October 1, 2020, funds are provided in Specific Appropriation 2014B to grant a competitive pay adjustment of 3.0 percent to each eligible employee in the Career Service, the Selected Exempt Service, the Senior Management Service, the lottery pay plan, the judicial branch pay plan, the legislative pay plan, and the pay plans administered by the Justice Administration Commission, to each military employee of the Florida National Guard on full-time military duty, and to each eligible non-career service employee of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, based on each eligible employee’s September 30, 2020, base rate of pay, but the minimum annual increase shall be $1,000. This competitive pay adjustment shall not apply to the Child Protective Investigator classifications within the Department of Children and Families receiving compensation adjustments pursuant to subsection (2)(b) of Section 8.

Link to Budget Conference Report for HB 5001:https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=C RA_.pdf&DocumentType=Amendments&BillNumber=5001&Session=2020

Circuit & County Court Judges – HB 5301 Headed to Governor

HB 5301, a House budget conforming bill, aligns with the Supreme Court’s certification opinion for new judges. The House bill creates 10 new circuit and county judge positions. The bill creates four new circuit judges – one judge in the 1st Judicial Circuit, two judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit. HB 5301 also creates six new county court judges – four new judges in Hillsborough County, one judge in Lee County, and one judge in Orange County.

Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee called the legislation “long overdue.”

  • On February 13th, HB 5301 passed the House by a vote of 117 to 0.
  • On March 12th, HB 5301 passed the Senate by a vote of 38 to 0.

Link to Enrolled Version of HB 5301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5301/BillText/er

Judges of Compensation Claims Pay Raise – HB 1049 Headed to Governor

SB 1298 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and HB 1049 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) require that the salaries for judges of compensation claims will be equal to that of county court judges, with the exception of the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims, whose salary will be $1,000 greater than the judges of compensation claims. The salary of county court judges is currently $151,822 which is $27,258 higher than the salary of a judge of compensation claims. The current annual salary of a judge of compensation claims is $124,564.20, and the current annual salary of the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims is $127,422.12. The approximately $1.1 million additional cost for the pay increase would come from the Workers’ Compensation Administration Trust Fund. Workers’ compensation judges are part of the executive, not judicial, branch.

On March 9th, HB 1049 passed the House by a vote of 118 to 0 and passed the Senate by a vote of 39 to 0.

Link to Enrolled Version of HB 1049: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1049/BillText/er

The following legislation did not pass this session:

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – Failed To Pass

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters.

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters.

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot.

A parallel constitutional ballot initiative is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. After garnering enough petition signatures to warrant the Supreme Court’s review of the initiative’s ballot language, the Supreme Court unanimously approved the ballot measure and ruled that it met the necessary legal requirements, including the single subject test. Florida voters will get a chance to decide in November whether to pass the constitutional amendment. The proposal will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4 and will need support from at least 60 percent of voters to take effect.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176

Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142

Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301

Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303

Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Legal Notices – Failed To Pass

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices. The House adopted technical amendments to the bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices, and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located. The House also amended the language dealing with notices for property tax increases and specified that a public bid advertisement made by a governmental agency on a publicly accessible website must include a method to accept electronic bids.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7

Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Public Records Exemption for Judicial Assistants – Failed to Pass

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. The legislation provides for the retroactive application of the exemption.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128

Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

Legislative Activity at The Capitol

Extended Session. What a difference a week can make in the Florida legislature. A legislative session noted for collegiality hit a bump earlier this week as legislative leaders acknowledged that the 2020 Legislative Session may not conclude by its scheduled deadline of March 13th. Disagreements over budget priorities and a spate of policy issues – health care, E-Verify, gaming, to name a few – stood in the way of an on-time finish. As the week progressed legislators became more optimistic that the extension may be just a day or two as negotiations between the chambers progressed. Long days and nights will be the norm next week as the legislature works to keep the session extension to a minimum.

Quote of the Week

When I started my career I was watching, doing a lot of watching. And I immediately gravitated to Senator Simmons. And there’s probably a lot of reasons, including the fact that we’re both practicing attorneys, board- certified attorneys. And I watched how he did his business. And one of the early things I noticed is that he never apologized for being an attorney, in a town that sometimes doesn’t always hold attorneys in the highest regard. In fact, like myself, he was quite proud of it. He was quite proud of the fact that our country and its foundations and the things that we all believe in – attorneys had a lot to do with building that. And those of us who are proud to be attorneys look at carrying on a certain tradition in that regard. That was one of the first things I noticed.” – Senator Rob Bradley following Senate Pro Tempore David Simmons’ Farewell Address in the Senate chamber on March 4th

Following is a summary of key information and issues of interest to The Florida Bar.

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – No Movement This Week

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters.

After passing the full House, HJR 301 resides in the Senate awaiting action. After passing three committees, SJR 142 was scheduled on the Senate Special Order Calendar for the floor on February 12th; however, the bill was not heard by the Senate and the bill was retained on the calendar of bills ready for Senate floor consideration.

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters.

After passing the full House, HB 303 resides in the Senate awaiting action.

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot. SJR 176 has one committee hearing remaining in the Rules Committee which is not scheduled to meet again. The bill will likely not pass this session.

A parallel constitutional ballot initiative is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. After garnering enough petition signatures to warrant the Supreme Court’s review of the initiative’s ballot language, the Supreme Court unanimously approved the ballot measure and ruled that it met the necessary legal requirements, including the single subject test. Florida voters will now get a chance to decide in November whether to pass the constitutional amendment. The proposal will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4 and will need support from at least 60 percent of voters to take effect.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176
Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142
Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301
Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303
Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Court Jurisdiction – House Bill Gets Floor Nod/Language Amended onto SB 1392

SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HB 7059 by the House Judiciary Committee transfer the jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear appeals of county court civil and criminal cases to the district courts of appeal. The legislation is based on the recommendations of a recent report by the Supreme Court’s Judicial Management Council’s Workgroup on Appellate Review of County Court Decisions.

SB 1510 and HB 7059 also clarify the appellate cases which go to Public Defender Appellate Entities and the Offices of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsels as a result of the jurisdictional changes in the underlying bill. The legislation provides that is it the duty of the public defender for the judicial circuit designated to handle appeals within an appellate district to handle all circuit court and county court appeals within the state courts and authorized federal courts if requested by any public defender or the office of criminal conflict and civil regional counsel within the appellate district that handled the trial.

This week, the proposed committee rewrite of SB 1392 included language to incorporate the changes to court jurisdiction limits from SB 1510. These changes include:

  • Broadly eliminating the authority of the circuit courts to hear appeals from county courts in civil and criminal cases. Circuit courts, however, retain jurisdiction to hear appeals from final administrative orders of local code enforcement boards and to hear appeals and review other matters as expressly provided by law. By operation of Article V, 4(b)(1) of the State Constitution, the district courts of appeal will have jurisdiction on appeals from final orders of county courts in civil and criminal cases by default;
  • Allowing a county court to certify important questions to a district court of appeal only in a final judgment that is appealable to a circuit court;
  • Allowing a district court of appeal to review any order or judgment of a county court which is certified by the county court to be of great public importance; and
  • Repealing a statute that gives jurisdiction to circuit courts to hear appeals of judgments in misdemeanor

SB 1510 remains in the Appropriations Committee. SB 1392, as amended, passed the Appropriations Committee on March 3rd by a vote of 20 to 0. SB 1392 is on the Senate floor calendar for March 6th. Also on March 6th, HB 7059 is on the calendar of bills that will be taken up by the full House.

Link to SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510
Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392
Link to HB 7059: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7059

Legal Notices – House Bill Passes Chamber After Debate

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices. The House adopted technical amendments to the bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices, and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located. The House also amended the language dealing with notices for property tax increases.

On March 3rd, HB 7 was heard by the full House and an amendment was adopted to specify that a public bid advertisement made by a governmental agency on a publicly accessible website must include a method to accept electronic bids. On March 5th, HB 7 passed the House chamber by a vote of 71 to 47. Currently, SB 1340 remains in the Judiciary Committee which is not scheduled to meet again. These bills will likely not pass this session.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7
Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Trial Court Security – Senate Bill Scheduled on Floor Next Week

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive court security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities. The House bill also clarifies that the chief judge retains broad decision-making authority to ensure the protection of due process rights.

HB 131 passed the full House by a vote of 118 to 0 and is now in the Senate awaiting action. SB 118 has been scheduled for the Senate chamber on March 9th.

Link to SB 118: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/118
Link to HB 131: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/131

Jury Service – Senate & House Bills Poised for Final Passage

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and HB 393 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala), allow students who are 18 to 21 years of age to be excused from a specific jury summons upon request if they are enrolled as a full-time student at a high school, state university, private post-secondary educational institution, Florida College System Institution, or career center. The bills do not affect jury service for those students older than 21 years of age. A student is not prohibited from choosing to report for jury service if they are summoned for jury service while a full-time student. Individuals may only be excused for a specific jury summons based on their enrollment status as opposed to an indefinite postponement.

On March 2nd, SB 738 passed the Rules Committee, its final committee reference, by a vote of 13 to 3. The Senate bill was amended to mirror the language of HB 393. On March 6th, the full Senate passed SB 738 by a vote of 37 to 2. On March 6th, the full House postponed consideration of HB 393 to wait on the Senate bill. A final vote on the legislation will occur next week in the House.

Link to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738
Link to HB 393: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/393

Early Childhood Courts – House Bill on Floor Calendar

Chapter 39, F.S., creates the dependency system charged with protecting child welfare. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) administers the state’s child welfare system and works in partnership with local communities and the courts to ensure the safety, timely permanency, and well-being of children involved in the dependency process.

SB 1324 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and HB 1105 by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R- Polk City) make a number of changes to the child welfare laws. The legislation which seeks to balance placement stability with child safety and permanency makes the following changes:

  • Requires certain training for dependency court judges on the benefits of stable placements and related issues.
  • Requires judges to consider certain factors related to placement stability when determining whether to change a child’s
  • Requires DCF to notify judges of all central abuse hotline reports that are accepted for an investigation involving a child over whom the court has
  • Allows DCF to file a petition to initiate court oversight when a family is receiving services from a community-based care lead agency (CBC) without court involvement, if the parent has been receiving voluntary services for a period of
  • Prohibits the court from ending jurisdiction if a CBC has to continue to provide an in-home safety plan for a child to live at
  • Amends current law to require the court and case managers to monitor relationships between foster parents and biological parents at various stages in the dependency process to encourage a productive working relationship that includes meaningful communication and mutual
  • Relocates language relating to quality parenting from s. 409.145, F.S., to a new section and expands it to apply to caregivers caring for children in out-of-home care. The new section directs DCF and CBCs to develop and support relationships between foster families and biological parents of children in out-of-home care, when it is safe and in the child’s best
  • Allows circuit courts to create early childhood court programs and requires the Office of State Courts Administrator to contract with one or more university-based centers that have expertise in infant mental health to ensure the quality, accountability, and fidelity of the evidence-based treatment provided by such programs.
  • Requires DCF or its subcontractors to complete criminal history checks, preliminary home studies for adoptive minors and licensing home studies for family foster homes within specific timeframes so children can be placed in stable homes
  • Creates a process with set timeframes DCF and its subcontractors must comply with when a person is interested in adopting a child from the child welfare

Allows a CBC to demonstrate a justification of need to provide more than 35 percent of direct care services to children and families in its geographic service area.

SB 1324 is on the calendar of bills ready for Senate floor consideration. HB 1105 will be heard on the House floor on March 6th.

Link to SB 1324: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1324
Link to HB 1105: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1105

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – Both Bills Scheduled for Chamber Consideration

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and HB 7057 by the House Judiciary Committee revise the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court. Most importantly, the bills authorize district court of appeal judges who reside within 50 miles of his or her DCA headquarters and meet certain other criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters. The legislation authorizes the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices. Additionally, the legislation specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers. The legislation would have a recurring impact of $125,000 on the State Courts System. Funding for the legislation is included in both SB 2500 and HB 5001, the proposed General Appropriations Act.

Both bills were amended to authorize the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices.

Additionally, the bills specify that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers.

This week, the proposed committee rewrite of SB 1392 included language to incorporate the changes to court jurisdiction limits from SB 1510. (See Court Jurisdiction section above)

SB 1510 remains in the Appropriations Committee. SB 1392, as amended, passed the Appropriations Committee on March 3rd by a vote of 20 to 0. On March 6th, both SB 1392 and HB 7059 are scheduled on the Senate and House floor calendars, respectively. for March 6th.

Link to SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510
Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392
Link to HB 7059: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7059

Public Records Exemption for Judicial Assistants – Senate Bill Scheduled for Floor

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. The legislation provides for the retroactive application of the exemption.

SB 128 is scheduled for floor consideration on March 6th. HB 479 has two committee hearings remaining which are not scheduled to meet again.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128
Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

State Courts System Budget

This week, both House Speaker Jose Oliva and Senate Appropriations Chair Senator Rob Bradley announced to their respective chambers that the House and Senate had not commenced budget conference negotiations and, therefore, the regular legislative session would not end on time by March 13th.

Below is a chart depicting the current status of appropriations issues important to the judicial branch.

Issues Senate Criminal & Civil Justice  Appropriations Subcommittee House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee State Courts System LBR Request
Timely Resolution of Cases Initiatives $5,050,069 (64 FTEs) -0- $13,512,798 (157 FTEs)
Court Interpreting Resources & Remote Technology $5,005,356 (37 FTEs) $1,735,889 (17 FTEs) $5,470,209 (40.5 FTEs)
2nd District Court of Appeals Courthouse Construction $20 million $21 million $21 million
Problem Solving Court Database $308,542 (2 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs)
Family Court Operational Support $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs)
Certification of Additional Judges $2,139,090 (15 FTEs) $3,418,513 (21 FTEs) $3,496,422 (22 FTEs)
Appellate Judiciary Travel $125,000 $125,000 $125,000
Appellate Court Security $516,139 $516,139 (6.5 Marshalls) $516,139
Judicial Data Management for Florida Courts Statewide Network (CJNet) $448,696 $448,696 $448,696
Bar Dues Proviso Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment. Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment.

Link to Senate Appropriations Bill, SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500
Link to House Appropriations Bill, HB 5001: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5001

Circuit & County Court Judges – House Proposal Passes Senate Rules Committee

HB 5301 aligns with the Supreme Court’s certification opinion for new judges. The House bill creates 10 new circuit and county judge positions – four new circuit judges in the 1st Judicial Circuit, two judges in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit. HB 5301 creates 6 new county court judges – four new judges in Hillsborough County, one judge in Lee County, and one judge in Orange County.

SB 7050, the Senate’s conforming bill creates five new circuit judge positions – two new judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 1st Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit. SB 7050 creates the aforementioned 5 new circuit judge positions and creates one new county court judge in Orange County. The Senate bill also specifies that all of the new judgeships will be appointed by the Governor, rather than elected.

The Senate Appropriations Act, SB 2500, also contains proviso language which recommends the five additional circuit court judgeships are contingent upon the passage of SB 7050.

On March 2nd, HB 5301 passed the Senate Rules Committee by a vote of 16 to 0 and the bill is now on the calendar of bills ready for the Senate floor. The bill will now become part of upcoming budget conference negotiations.

Link to HB 5301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5301
Link to SB 7050: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7050
Link to SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500

Judges of Compensation Claims Proposed Pay Raise – Both Bills Heard in Respective Chambers

SB 1298 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and HB 1049 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) require that the salaries for judges of compensation claims will be equal to that of county court judges, with the exception of the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims, whose salary will be $1,000 greater than the judges of compensation claims. The salary of county court judges is currently $151,822 which is $27,258 higher than the salary of a judge of compensation claims. The current annual salary of a judge of compensation claims is $124,564.20, and the current annual salary of the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims is $127,422.12. The approximately $1.1 million additional cost for the pay increase would come from the Workers’ Compensation Administration Trust Fund. Workers’ compensation judges are part of the executive, not judicial, branch.

On March 6th, both SB 1298 and HB 1049 will be taken up on the Senate and House chambers, respectively.

Link to SB 1298: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1298
Link to HB 1049: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1049

Download Week Eight Legislative Update

Legislative Activity at The CapitolCertainly not panic, more like cautious optimism. These words do not describe the recent coronavirus threat, but instead describe the posture of the budget conference process.

Here’s some facts: the budget is the only bill the legislature must pass; the legislative session is scheduled to conclude on March 13th. Once negotiated and printed, the budget must sit for 72-hours prior to a final vote in the legislature. Capital observers still expect the conference process to be completed on time and the legislature to adjourn on time, but by the middle of next week their optimism may change. In the meantime, the policy committee process is winding down and House and Senate leaders are busily negotiating the final priorities which must also make it the to the finish line before the legislative session concludes.

Following is a summary of key information and issues of interest to The Florida Bar.

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – Senate Bill Retained on Calendar

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters.

After passing the full House, HJR 301 resides in the Senate awaiting action.

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters.

After passing the full House, HB 303 resides in the Senate awaiting action.

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot.

SJR 176 has one committee hearing remaining in the Rules Committee.

A parallel constitutional ballot initiative is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. After garnering enough petition signatures to warrant the Supreme Court’s review of the initiative’s ballot language, the Supreme Court unanimously approved the ballot measure and ruled that it met the necessary legal requirements, including the single subject test. Florida voters will now get a chance to decide in November whether to pass the constitutional amendment. The proposal will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4 and will need support from at least 60 percent of voters to take effect.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176
Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142
Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301
Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303
Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Court Jurisdiction – No Movement This Week

As filed, SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HB 7059 by the House Judiciary Committee transfer the jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear appeals of county court civil and criminal cases to the district courts of appeal. The bill is based on the recommendations of a recent report by the Supreme Court’s Judicial Management Council’s Workgroup on Appellate Review of County Court Decisions.

SB 1510 and HB 7059 were amended to clarify the appellate cases which go to Public Defender Appellate Entities and the Offices of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsels as a result of the jurisdictional changes in the underlying bill. The legislation provides that is it the duty of the public defender for the judicial circuit designated to handle appeals within an appellate district to handle all circuit court and county court appeals within the state courts and authorized federal courts if requested by any public defender or the office of criminal conflict and civil regional counsel within the appellate district that handled the trial.

SB 1510 is now in the Appropriations Committee and HB 7059 is on the calendar of bills ready for the House floor.

Link to SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510
Link to HB 7059: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7059

Legal Notices – House Bill Scheduled for Floor

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices. The House adopted technical amendments to the bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices, and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located. The House also amended the language dealing with notices for property tax increases.

HB 7 is scheduled to be heard by the full House on March 3rd. SB 1340 was on the February 19th agenda of the Judiciary Committee, but time ran out and the bill was postponed. As of this date, the Judiciary Committee is not scheduled to meet during week eight.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7
Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Legal Advertising – Neither Bill Advances This Week

The legislature is also considering certain restrictions of legal advertising. While generally in the purview of the Florida Supreme Court, some state legislatures across the country have passed specific restrictions on legal advertising, typically under unfair and deceptive practices statutes. Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) filed SB 1288 pertaining to the solicitation of legal services. Specifically, the bill focuses on advertisements featuring “medical alerts” or “consumer alerts” using the names or logos of a regulatory agency.

HB 7083 by the Civil Justice Subcommittee prohibits legal advertisements from containing information on the use, sale, or transfer of protected health information for purposes of soliciting legal services. Specifically, the committee bill:

  • Prohibits a person who submits a legal advertisement for publication, broadcast, or dissemination, or who pays for or otherwise sponsors a legal advertisement from:
    • Failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose the sponsor of the advertisement;
    • Displaying federal or state government agency logos in a manner implying affiliation with a that agency;
    • Including terminology implying that the product has been recalled when it has not been;
  • Requires a legal advertisement to clearly disclose the warning, “Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor,” if the advertisement solicits clients who may allege injury from a prescription drug; and
  • Prohibits a person from using, obtaining, selling, transferring, or disclosing to another person without written authorization protected health information to solicit legal

The House committee bill also creates a cause of action for a person who suffers a physical injury as a result of a legal advertisement’s violation of these provisions and authorizes compensatory damages, attorney fees, and court costs. Additionally, the Department of Legal Affairs or a state attorney may bring an action to enjoin any person who has violated these provisions, or may bring an action on behalf of one or more consumers or governmental entities for actual damages caused by a violation of these provisions.

SB 1288 has been referred to the Criminal Justice, Judiciary, and Rules Committees. HB 7083 has been referred to the Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees.

Link to SB 1288: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1288
Link to HB 7083: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7083

Trial Court Security – House Bill in Message to Senate

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive court security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities. The House bill also clarifies that the chief judge retains broad decision-making authority to ensure the protection of due process rights.

HB 131 passed the full House by a vote of 118 to 0 and is now in the Senate awaiting action. SB 118 is on the calendar of bills waiting to be scheduled for the Senate floor.

Link to SB 118: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/118
Link to HB 131: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/131

Jury Service – House Bill Ready for Floor Consideration/Senate Bill on Agenda in Rules Committee

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) allows students between 18 and 21 years of age who are actively enrolled as a full-time student in high school or at any state university, private postsecondary educational institution, Florida College System institution, or career center to be excused from jury service upon request. The companion bill, HB 393 by Rep.

Charlie Stone (R-Ocala), was amended to change the excusal requirement from “enrolled” to “attending” these same institutions. The legislation does not affect jury service for those students older than 21 years of age and a student is not prohibited from choosing to report for jury service if they are summoned for jury service while a full-time student. A full-time student’s request to be excused only applies to a specific summons for jury service and does not permanently excuse a student between the ages of 18 to 21 from receiving a jury summons.

On March 2nd, SB 738 is scheduled in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference. Senator Harrell has filed an amendment to SB 738 to align the Senate bill to the House language. HB 393 is now on the calendar of bills ready for House floor consideration.

Link to Delete-All Amendment to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/00738/Amendment/679768
Link to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738
Link to HB 393: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/393

Early Childhood Courts – Both Bills Ready for Floor Calendars

Chapter 39, F.S., creates the dependency system charged with protecting child welfare. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) administers the state’s child welfare system and works in partnership with local communities and the courts to ensure the safety, timely permanency, and well-being of children involved in the dependency process.

SB 1324 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and HB 1105 by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R- Polk City) make a number of changes to the child welfare laws. The legislation which seeks to balance placement stability with child safety and permanency makes the following changes:

  • Requires certain training for dependency court judges on the benefits of stable placements and related issues.
  • Requires judges to consider certain factors related to placement stability when determining whether to change a child’s
  • Requires DCF to notify judges of all central abuse hotline reports that are accepted for an investigation involving a child over whom the court has
  • Allows DCF to file a petition to initiate court oversight when a family is receiving services from a community-based care lead agency (CBC) without court involvement, if the parent has been receiving voluntary services for a period of
  • Prohibits the court from ending jurisdiction if a CBC has to continue to provide an in-home safety plan for a child to live at
  • Amends current law to require the court and case managers to monitor relationships between foster parents and biological parents at various stages in the dependency process to encourage a productive working relationship that includes meaningful communication and mutual
  • Relocates language relating to quality parenting from s. 409.145, F.S., to a new section and expands it to apply to caregivers caring for children in out-of-home care. The new section directs DCF and CBCs to develop and support relationships between foster families and biological parents of children in out-of-home care, when it is safe and in the child’s best
  • Allows circuit courts to create early childhood court programs and requires the Office of State Courts Administrator to contract with one or more university-based centers that have expertise in infant mental health to ensure the quality, accountability, and fidelity of the evidence-based treatment provided by such programs.
  • Requires DCF or its subcontractors to complete criminal history checks, preliminary home studies for adoptive minors and licensing home studies for family foster homes within specific timeframes so children can be placed in stable homes
  • Creates a process with set timeframes DCF and its subcontractors must comply with when a person is interested in adopting a child from the child welfare
  • Allows a CBC to demonstrate a justification of need to provide more than 35 percent of direct care services to children and families in its geographic service

SB 1324 and HB 1105 are now on the calendars of bills ready for Senate and House floor consideration, respectively.

Link to SB 1324: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1324
Link to HB 1105: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1105

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – Senate Bill Scheduled in Final Committee Next Week

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and HB 7057 by the House Judiciary Committee revise the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court. Most importantly, the bills authorize district court of appeal judges who reside within 50 miles of his or her DCA headquarters and meet certain other criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters. The legislation authorizes the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices. Additionally, the legislation specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers. The legislation would have a recurring impact of $125,000 on the State Courts System. Funding for the legislation is included in both SB 2500 and HB 5001, the proposed General Appropriations Act.

Both bills were amended to authorize the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices.

Additionally, the bills specify that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers.

HB 7057 is now on the calendar of bills ready for the House floor. SB 1392 is scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Committee on March 3rd.

Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392
Link to HB 7057: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7057

Public Records Exemption for Judicial Assistants – No Movement This Week

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. The legislation provides for the retroactive application of the exemption.

SB 128 is on the calendar of bills ready to be scheduled for floor consideration. HB 479 has two committee hearings remaining.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128
Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

State Courts System Budget

During the budget conference process, legislative leaders and staff will negotiate a budget conference report which will decide the final budget items and allocations for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year. Below is a chart depicting the current status of appropriations issues important to the judicial branch.

Issues Senate Criminal & Civil Justice  Appropriations Subcommittee House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee State Courts System LBR Request
Timely Resolution of Cases Initiatives $5,050,069 (64 FTEs) -0- $13,512,798 (157 FTEs)
Court Interpreting Resources & Remote Technology $5,005,356 (37 FTEs) $1,735,889 (17 FTEs) $5,470,209 (40.5 FTEs)
2nd District Court of Appeals Courthouse Construction $20 million $21 million $21 million
Problem Solving Court Database $308,542 (2 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs)
Family Court Operational Support $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs)
Certification of Additional Judges $2,139,090 (15 FTEs) $3,418,513 (21 FTEs) $3,496,422 (22 FTEs)
Appellate Judiciary Travel $125,000 $125,000 $125,000
Appellate Court Security $516,139 $516,139 (6.5 Marshalls) $516,139
Judicial Data Management for Florida Courts Statewide Network (CJNet) $448,696 $448,696 $448,696
Bar Dues Proviso Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment. Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment.

Link to Senate Appropriations Bill, SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500
Link to House Appropriations Bill, HB 5001: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5001

Circuit & County Court Judges – House Proposal Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee Hearing

HB 5301 aligns with the Supreme Court’s certification opinion for new judges. The House bill creates 10 new circuit and county judge positions – four new circuit judges in the 1st Judicial Circuit, two judges in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit. HB 5301 creates 6 new county court judges – four new judges in Hillsborough County, one judge in Lee County, and one judge in Orange County.

SB 7050, the Senate’s conforming bill creates five new circuit judge positions – two new judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 1st Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit. SB 7050 creates the aforementioned 5 new circuit judge positions and creates one new county court judge in Orange County. The Senate bill also specifies that all of the new judgeships will be appointed by the Governor, rather than elected.

The Senate Appropriations Act, SB 2500, also contains proviso language which recommends the five additional circuit court judgeships are contingent upon the passage of SB 7050.

HB 5301 has passed the House, was sent to the Senate in messages, and is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee on March 2nd.

Link to HB 5301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5301
Link to SB 7050: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7050
Link to SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500

Download Week Seven Legislative Update

Legislative Activity at The CapitolThere is always a point in the legislative session where the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate must address each other’s priorities. Logically, this spirit of compromise is the only way for the legislature to function effectively, especially a legislature that wishes to conclude on time. Compromise in the legislature is often multi- faceted – budget for policy for appointments for more budget – and is rarely linear. This legislative session is no different as budget allocations are being hammered out prior to the budget conference and committee agendas are designed to address mutual priorities.

Perhaps the best example of the compromise point of the legislative session occurred this week as the Senate amended several bills to incorporate the Speaker’s health care priorities regarding broadening the scope of practice for nurses and pharmacists. What this action means in the multi-faceted legislative negotiations remains to be seen but is a sure sign of a glide path to an on-time conclusion of the legislative session.

Following is a summary of key information and issues of interest to The Florida Bar.

State Courts System Budget

The House and Senate passed their respective budgets and await the budget conference process to begin. During the conference process, legislative leaders and staff will negotiate a budget conference report which will decide the final budget items and allocations for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year. Below is a chart depicting the current status of appropriations issues important to the judicial branch.

Issues Senate Criminal & Civil Justice  Appropriations Subcommittee House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee State Courts System LBR Request
Timely Resolution of Cases Initiatives $5,050,069 (64 FTEs) -0- $13,512,798 (157 FTEs)
Court Interpreting Resources & Remote Technology $5,005,356 (37 FTEs) $1,735,889 (17 FTEs) $5,470,209 (40.5 FTEs)
2nd District Court of Appeals Courthouse Construction $20 million $21 million $21 million
Problem Solving Court Database $308,542 (2 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs)
Family Court Operational Support $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs)
Certification of Additional Judges $2,139,090 (15 FTEs) $3,418,513 (21 FTEs) $3,496,422 (22 FTEs)
Appellate Judiciary Travel $125,000 $125,000 $125,000
Appellate Court Security $516,139 $516,139 (6.5 Marshalls) $516,139
Judicial Data Management for Florida Courts Statewide Network (CJNet) $448,696 $448,696 $448,696
Bar Dues Proviso Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment. Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment.

Link to Senate Appropriations Bill, SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500
Link to House Appropriations Bill, HB 5001: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5001

Circuit & County Court Judges – Differing House & Senate Budget Conforming Bills Emerge

HB 5301 aligns with the Supreme Court’s certification opinion for new judges. The House bill creates 10 new circuit and county judge positions – four new circuit judges in the 1st Judicial Circuit, two judges in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit. HB 5301 creates 6 new county court judges – four new judges in Hillsborough County, one judge in Lee County, and one judge in Orange County.

SB 7050, the Senate’s conforming bill creates five new circuit judge positions – two new judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 1st Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit. SB 7050 creates the aforementioned 5 new circuit judge positions and creates one new county court judge in Orange County. The Senate bill also specifies that all of the new judgeships will be appointed by the Governor, rather than elected.

The Senate Appropriations Act, SB 2500, also contains proviso language which recommends the five additional circuit court judgeships are contingent upon the passage of SB 7050.

Link to HB 5301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5301
Link to SB 7050: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7050
Link to SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – Senate Bill Retained on Calendar

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters.

After passing the full House, HJR 301 resides in the Senate awaiting action.

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters.

After passing the full House, HB 303 resides in the Senate awaiting action.

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot.

SJR 176 has one committee hearing remaining in the Rules Committee.

A parallel constitutional ballot initiative is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. After garnering enough petition signatures to warrant the Supreme Court’s review of the initiative’s ballot language, on February 19th, the Supreme Court unanimously approved the ballot measure and rules that it met the necessary legal requirements and met the single subject test.

Florida voters will now get a chance to decide in November whether to pass the constitutional amendment. The proposal will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4 and will need support from at least 60 percent of voters to take effect.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176
Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142
Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301
Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303
Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Court Jurisdiction – Both Bills Advance

As filed, SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HB 7059 by the House Judiciary Committee transfer the jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear appeals of county court civil and criminal cases to the district courts of appeal. The bill is based on the recommendations of a recent report by the Supreme Court’s Judicial Management Council’s Workgroup on Appellate Review of County Court Decisions.

This week, SB 1510 and HB 7059 were amended to clarify the appellate cases which go to Public Defender Appellate Entities and the Offices of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsels as a result of the jurisdictional changes in the underlying bill. The legislation provides that is it the duty of the public defender for the judicial circuit designated to handle appeals within an appellate district to handle all circuit court and county court appeals within the state courts and authorized federal courts if requested by any public defender or the office of criminal conflict and civil regional counsel within the appellate district that handled the trial.

On February 18th, SB 1510 was amended and passed by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice by a vote of 8 to 0 and the bill is now in the Appropriations Committee. Also, on February 18th, HB 7059 passed it only referenced committee, the Appropriations Committee, by a vote of 24 to 2.

Link to PCS for SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510/Amendment/836136
Link to HB 7059: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7059

Legal Notices – Senate Bill Postponed

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices. The House adopted technical amendments to the bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices, and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located. The House also amended the language dealing with notices for property tax increases.

HB 7 is now on the calendar of bills ready for consideration by the full House. On February 19th, SB 1340 was on the agenda of the Judiciary Committee, but time ran out and the bill was postponed.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7
Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Legal Advertising – No Movement This Week

The legislature is also considering certain restrictions of legal advertising. While generally in the purview of the Florida Supreme Court, some state legislatures across the country have passed specific restrictions on legal advertising, typically under unfair and deceptive practices statutes. Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) filed SB 1288 pertaining to the solicitation of legal services. Specifically, the bill focuses on advertisements featuring “medical alerts” or “consumer alerts” using the names or logos of a regulatory agency.

HB 7083 by the Civil Justice Subcommittee prohibits legal advertisements from containing information on the use, sale, or transfer of protected health information for purposes of soliciting legal services. Specifically, the committee bill:

  • Prohibits a person who submits a legal advertisement for publication, broadcast, or dissemination, or who pays for or otherwise sponsors a legal advertisement from:
    • Failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose the sponsor of the advertisement;
    • Displaying federal or state government agency logos in a manner implying affiliation with a that agency;
    • Including terminology implying that the product has been recalled when it has not been;
  • Requires a legal advertisement to clearly disclose the warning, “Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor,” if the advertisement solicits clients who may allege injury from a prescription drug; and
  • Prohibits a person from using, obtaining, selling, transferring, or disclosing to another person without written authorization protected health information to solicit legal

The House committee bill also creates a cause of action for a person who suffers a physical injury as a result of a legal advertisement’s violation of these provisions and authorizes compensatory damages, attorney fees, and court costs. Additionally, the Department of Legal Affairs or a state attorney may bring an action to enjoin any person who has violated these provisions, or may bring an action on behalf of one or more consumers or governmental entities for actual damages caused by a violation of these provisions.

There was no movement on the Senate legislation. HB 7083 by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee has been referred to the Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees.

Link to SB 1288: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1288
Link to HB 7083: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7083

Trial Court Security – House Bill Passes House Chamber/Senate Bill Clears Final Committee

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive court security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities. The House bill also clarifies that the chief judge retains broad decision-making authority to ensure the protection of due process rights.

On February 20th, HB 131 passed the full House by a vote of 118 to 0. Also, on February 20th, SB 118 passed the Appropriations Committee by a vote of 18 to 0.

Link to SB 118: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/118
Link to HB 131: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/131

Jury Service – House Bill Ready for Floor Consideration

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) allows students between 18 and 21 years of age who are actively enrolled as a full-time student in high school or at any state university, private postsecondary educational institution, Florida College System institution, or career center to be excused from jury service upon request. The companion bill, HB 393 by Rep.

Charlie Stone (R-Ocala), was amended to change the excusal requirement from “enrolled” to “attending” these same institutions. The legislation does not affect jury service for those students older than 21 years of age and a student is not prohibited from choosing to report for jury service if they are summoned for jury service while a full-time student. A full-time student’s request to be excused only applies to a specific summons for jury service and does not permanently excuse a student between the ages of 18 to 21 from receiving a jury summons.

SB 738 is now in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference. HB 393 is now on the calendar of bills ready for House floor consideration.

Link to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738
Link to HB 393: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/393

Early Childhood Courts – SB 1324 and HB 1105 Advance This Week

Chapter 39, F.S., creates the dependency system charged with protecting child welfare. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) administers the state’s child welfare system and works in partnership with local communities and the courts to ensure the safety, timely permanency and well-being of children involved in the dependency process.

SB 1324 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and HB 1105 by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R- Polk City), make a number of changes to the child welfare laws. This week both bills were substantially amended in an effort to balance placement stability with child safety and permanency. As amended, the legislation makes the following changes:

  • Requires certain training for dependency court judges on the benefits of stable placements and related issues.
  • Requires judges to consider certain factors related to placement stability when determining whether to change a child’s
  • Requires DCF to notify judges of all central abuse hotline reports that are accepted for an investigation involving a child over whom the court has
  • Allows DCF to file a petition to initiate court oversight when a family is receiving services from a community-based care lead agency (CBC) without court involvement, if the parent has been receiving voluntary services for a period of
  • Prohibits the court from ending jurisdiction if a CBC has to continue to provide an in-home safety plan for a child to live at
  • Amends current law to require the court and case managers to monitor relationships between foster parents and biological parents at various stages in the dependency process to encourage a productive working relationship that includes meaningful communication and mutual support.
  • Relocates language relating to quality parenting from s. 409.145, F.S., to a new section and expands it to apply to caregivers caring for children in out-of-home care. The new section directs DCF and CBCs to develop and support relationships between foster families and biological parents of children in out-of-home care, when it is safe and in the child’s best
  • Allows circuit courts to create early childhood court programs and requires the Office of State Courts Administrator to contract with one or more university-based centers that have expertise in infant mental health to ensure the quality, accountability, and fidelity of the evidence-based treatment provided by such programs.
  • Requires DCF or its subcontractors to complete criminal history checks, preliminary home studies for adoptive minors and licensing home studies for family foster homes within specific timeframes so children can be placed in stable homes
  • Creates a process with set timeframes DCF and its subcontractors must comply with when a person is interested in adopting a child from the child welfare
  • Allows a CBC to demonstrate a justification of need to provide more than 35 percent of direct care services to children and families in its geographic service

On February 20th, a “strike-all” amendment was adopted to SB 1324 and the bill passed the full Appropriations Committee by a vote of 20 to 0. On February 18th, a “strike-all” amendment passed to HB 1105 and it passed its final committee, the Health and Human Services Committee, by a vote of 16 to 0.

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – No Movement This Week

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and HB 7057 by the House Judiciary Committee revise the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court. Most importantly, the bills authorize district court of appeal judges who reside within 50 miles of his or her DCA headquarters and meet certain other criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters. The legislation authorizes the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices. Additionally, the legislation specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers. The legislation would have a recurring impact of $125,000 on the State Courts System. Funding for the legislation is included in both SB 2500 and HB 5001, the proposed General Appropriations Act.

Both bills were amended to authorize the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices.

Additionally, the bills specify that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers.

HB 7057 is now on the calendar of bills ready for the House floor. SB 1392 has one committee hearing remaining in the Appropriations Committee.

Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392
Link to HB 7057: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7057

Judicial Nominating Commissions – No Action

SB 86 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) and HB 379 by Rep. Al Jacquet (D- Lantana) reinstate the composition of the judicial nominating commissions as it existed in § 20(5), Fla. Const. and § 43.29, Fla. Stat. (2000). Currently, the governor appoints nine members to each of the 26 JNCs. Three of those members are from a list recommended from The Florida Bar. Under the legislation, the governor would only appoint three members to each nine-member nominating commission. Three other members would be appointed by The Florida Bar, and then the six members of each JNC panel would select the remaining three members.

Link to SB 86: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/86
Link to HB 379: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/379

Public Records Exemption for County Attorneys & Assistant County Attorneys – No Movement This Week

HB 63 by Rep. Randy Maggard (R-Dade City) and SB 248 by Senator Ed Hooper (R- Clearwater) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for personal identifying and location information of current and former county attorneys and assistant county attorneys and their spouses & children.

SB 248 has cleared all of its committees of reference and is on the calendar of bills ready to be scheduled for floor consideration. HB 63 has not been heard by any committees.

Link to HB 63: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/63
Link to SB 248: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/248

Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct – No Action

SB 262 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) creates the Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct within the Department of Legal Affairs. The council will provide recommendations and findings relating to prosecutorial misconduct to the Department of Lawyer Regulation within The Florida Bar and to the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice. The council’s membership includes four prosecutors, four public defenders or assistant public defenders, a district court of appeal judge, and two county or circuit court judges. By January 14th of each year, the council is required to submit an annual report to the Governor, Legislature, and Chief Justice summarizing the council’s recommendations and findings during the previous calendar year.

***There has been no action this session on SB 262 and a House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 262: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/262

Public Records Exemption for Judicial Assistants – No Movement This Week

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. The legislation provides for the retroactive application of the exemption.

SB 128 has cleared all of its committees of reference and is on the calendar of bills ready to be scheduled for floor consideration. HB 479 has two committee hearings remaining.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128
Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

Download Week Six Legislative Update

The 2020 Legislative Session reached its halfway mark this past Wednesday, and the legislature is now hurtling into its last 30 days of session. With just two more weeks for House committees to hold hearings, and the Senate facing a similar deadline, legislators are juggling a tremendous number of policy issues. A few headlines from this week illustrate the breadth of issues the legislature is currently addressing:

  • “Controversial vacation rental proposal on the move”
  • “House pitches wide-ranging tax package”
  • “State asks court to continue blocking felons from voting”
  • “Controversial bill would end permanent alimony in Florida, change child custody”
  • “Genetic information ban ready for Senate floor”

The number of bills being considered by the legislature will narrow as many bills fail to move through their final committees due to time and process constraints. Over the next few weeks, the legislature will also turn its attention towards negotiating a budget. This dual track of managing both policy and budget priorities makes for many long days in the coming weeks.

Following is a summary of key information and issues of interest to The Florida Bar.

State Courts System Budget

This week the House and Senate Chambers debated and passed their respective budget proposals setting up the process for the budget conference to begin. During the conference process, legislative leaders and staff will hash out a budget conference report which will decide the final budget items and allocations for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year.

Below is a chart depicting the current status of appropriations issues important to the judicial branch.

Issues Senate Criminal & Civil Justice  Appropriations Subcommittee House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee State Courts System LBR Request
Timely Resolution of Cases Initiatives $5,050,069 (64 FTEs) -0- $13,512,798 (157 FTEs)
Court Interpreting Resources & Remote Technology $5,005,356 (37 FTEs) $1,735,889 (17 FTEs) $5,470,209 (40.5 FTEs)
2nd District Court of Appeals Courthouse Construction $20 million $21 million $21 million
Problem Solving Court Database $308,542 (2 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs)
Family Court Operational Support $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs)
Certification of Additional Judges $2,139,090 (15 FTEs) $3,418,513 (21 FTEs) $3,496,422 (22 FTEs)
Appellate Judiciary Travel $125,000 $125,000 $125,000
Appellate Court Security $516,139 $516,139 (6.5 Marshalls) $516,139
Judicial Data Management for Florida Courts Statewide Network (CJNet) $448,696 $448,696 $448,696
Bar Dues Proviso Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment. Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment.

Link to Senate Appropriations Bill, SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500
Link to House Appropriations Bill, HB 5001: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5001

Circuit & County Court Judges – Differing House & Senate Budget Conforming Bills Emerge

HB 5301 aligns with the Supreme Court’s certification opinion for new judges. The House bill creates 10 new circuit and county judge positions – four new circuit judges in the 1st Judicial Circuit, two judges in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit. HB 5301 creates 6 new county court judges – four new judges in Hillsborough County, one judge in Lee County, and one judge in Orange County.

SB 7050, the Senate’s conforming bill creates five new circuit judge positions – two new judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 1st Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit. SB 7050 creates the aforementioned 5 new circuit judge positions and creates one new county court judge in Orange County. The Senate bill also specifies that all of the new judgeships will be appointed by the Governor, rather than elected.

The Senate Appropriations Act, SB 2500, also contains proviso language which recommends the five additional circuit court judgeships are contingent upon the passage of SB 7050.

On February 13th, HB 5301 passed the House by a vote of 117 to 0 and was immediately sent to the Senate where it was referred to the Rules Committee. Also, on February 13th, HB 5001 passed the House chamber by a vote of 118 to 0 and was immediately sent to the Senate. These actions procedurally position the General Appropriations Act for the budget conference.

Link to HB 5301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5301
Link to SB 7050: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7050
Link to SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

Public Records Exemption for Judicial Assistants – No Movement This Week

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. The legislation provides for the retroactive application of the exemption.

SB 128 has cleared all of its committees of reference and is on the calendar of bills ready to be scheduled for floor consideration. HB 479 has two committee hearings remaining.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128
Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – Senate Bill Scheduled for Floor Debate

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters.

After passing the full House, HJR 301 resides in the Senate awaiting action. SJR 142 was on the Senate Special Order Calendar for consideration by the full Senate on February 12th but was postponed until February 19th.

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters.

After passing the full House, HB 303 resides in the Senate awaiting action.

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot.

SJR 176 has one committee hearing remaining in the Rules Committee.

A parallel constitutional ballot initiative is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. On January 30th, the state Division of Elections announced that the Keep Our Constitution Clean political committee had met the legal requirement for submitting the necessary amount of petition signatures. The political committee submitted 769,769 valid petition signatures, over and above the 766,200 signature requirement. The committee submitted the requisite number of signatures prior to the deadline of Saturday, February 1st. The political committee will now also need Florida Supreme Court approval of the proposed ballot wording. If the Florida Supreme Court approves the proposal’s wording, the initiative will go on the November 2020 ballot.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176
Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142
Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301
Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303
Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Court Jurisdiction – Senate Bill Postponed & Rescheduled for Next Week

SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) transfers the jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear appeals of county court civil and criminal cases to the district courts of appeal. The bill is based on the recommendations of a recent report by the Supreme Court’s Judicial Management Council’s Workgroup on Appellate Review of County Court Decisions.

As filed, the Senate bill gave the district courts of appeal jurisdiction to hear appeals of decisions of county courts in criminal and civil cases and to hear appeals relating to a variety of administrative decisions and noncriminal infractions. SB 1510, as amended, does not transfer to the district courts of appeal the appellate jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear administrative decisions and appeals relating to noncriminal infractions.

On February 13th, SB 1510 was postponed by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, but was rescheduled for February 18th. The Senate bill is also referred to the Appropriations Committee.

HB 7059 introduced by the House Judiciary Committee is identical to the Senate’s proposal relating to appellate court jurisdiction.

HB 7059 has been introduced and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

Link to SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510
Link to HB 7059: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7059

Legal Notices – House Bill Ready for Floor/Senate Bill Postponed in First Hearing

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices. The House adopted technical amendments to the bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices, and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located. The House also amended the language dealing with notices for property tax increases.

HB 7 is now on the calendar of bills ready for consideration by the full House. On February 11th, SB 1340 was postponed in the Judiciary Committee, as committee time ran out.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7
Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Legal Advertising – House Bill Referred to Committees

The legislature is also considering certain restrictions of legal advertising. While generally in the purview of the Florida Supreme Court, some state legislatures across the country have passed specific restrictions on legal advertising, typically under unfair and deceptive practices statutes. Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) filed SB 1288 pertaining to the solicitation of legal services. Specifically, the bill focuses on advertisements featuring “medical alerts” or “consumer alerts” using the names or logos of a regulatory agency.

HB 7083 by the Civil Justice Subcommittee prohibits legal advertisements from containing information on the use, sale, or transfer of protected health information for purposes of soliciting legal services. Specifically, the committee bill:

  • Prohibits a person who submits a legal advertisement for publication, broadcast, or dissemination, or who pays for or otherwise sponsors a legal advertisement from:
    • Failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose the sponsor of the advertisement;
    • Displaying federal or state government agency logos in a manner implying affiliation with a that agency;
    • Including terminology implying that the product has been recalled when it has not been;
  • Requires a legal advertisement to clearly disclose the warning, “Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor,” if the advertisement solicits clients who may allege injury from a prescription drug; and
  • Prohibits a person from using, obtaining, selling, transferring, or disclosing to another person without written authorization protected health information to solicit legal

The House committee bill also creates a cause of action for a person who suffers a physical injury as a result of a legal advertisement’s violation of these provisions and authorizes compensatory damages, attorney fees, and court costs. Additionally, the Department of Legal Affairs or a state attorney may bring an action to enjoin any person who has violated these provisions, or may bring an action on behalf of one or more consumers or governmental entities for actual damages caused by a violation of these provisions.

There was no movement on the Senate legislation. HB 7083 by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee has been referred to the Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees.

Link to SB 1288: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1288
Link to HB 7083: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7083

Trial Court Security – House Bill Scheduled for Floor

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive court security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities. The House bill also clarifies that the chief judge retains broad decision-making authority to ensure the protection of due process rights.

HB 131 is on the House chamber calendar of bills to be considered on February 19th. The Senate bill is now in its final committee, the Appropriations Committee.

Link to SB 118: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/118
Link to HB 131: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/131

Jury Service – Amended House Bill Passes Last Committee

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and HB 393 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) require students between 18 and 21 years of age who are actively enrolled as a full-time student in high school or at any state university, private postsecondary educational institution, Florida College System institution, or career center to be excused from jury service upon request.

SB 738 is now in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference. On February 12th, HB 393 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 16 to 0. The committee adopted a “strike- all” amendment which:

  • Changed the excusal requirement from “enrolled” to “attending.”
  • Clarified that a requested excusal by a full-time student will only apply to a specific summons for jury

Link to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738
Link to HB 393: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/393

Early Childhood Courts – No Movement This Week

SB 236 by Senator Lauren Book and HB 449 by Rep. Amber Mariano (R-Port Richey) create a new problem-solving court to support an Early Childhood Court (ECC) program for cases involving children under the age of three and uses specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial approach.

Currently, there are 22 ECC sites throughout Florida serving 350 children aged 0-3. The legislation expands ECC access while standardizing procedures for the court throughout the state.

SB 236 has two remaining committee references – the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and the Appropriations Committee. HB 449 has not been heard in committees.

SB 1324 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) makes a number of changes to the child welfare laws. Among the provisions, the bill:

  • Requires circuit and county court dependency judges to receive education relating to the value of secure attachments, stable placements and the impact of trauma on children in out-of-home
  • Codifies the creation and establishment of Early Childhood Court (ECC) programs in the circuit courts that serve cases involving children typically under the age of three by using specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial
  • Requires DCF to notify the court of any report to the central abuse hotline that involves a child under court
  • Provides circumstances under which a court may remove a child and place he or she in out-of-home care if a child was placed in the child’s own home with an in-home safety plan or was reunited with a parent with an in home safety

A comparable bill, HB 1105 by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R-Polk City), also encourages placement stability of children by requiring training to be offered to dependency court judges that informs them of the benefits of stable placements and related issues. The House bill also requires judges to consider certain factors related to placement stability when determining whether to change a child’s placement. Further, the bill required judges to be notified of all central abuse hotline reports that are accepted for an investigation and when the report involves a child over whom the court has jurisdiction.

SB 1324 is now in the full Appropriations Committee. HB 1105 has one final hearing remaining in the Health and Human Services Committee.

Link to SB 236: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/236
Link to HB 449: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/449
Link to SB 1324: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1324
Link to HB 1105: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1105

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – House & Senate Bills Pass

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and HB 7057 by the House Judiciary Committee revise the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court. Most importantly, the bills authorize district court of appeal judges who reside within 50 miles of his or her DCA headquarters and meet certain other criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters. The legislation authorizes the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices. Additionally, the legislation specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers. The legislation would have a recurring impact of $125,000 on the State Courts System. Funding for the legislation is included in both SB 2500 and HB 5001, the proposed General Appropriations Act.

Both bills were amended to committee substitute authorizes the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices. Additionally, the bills specify that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers.

On February 11th, HB 7057 passed the Appropriations Committee by a vote of 28 to 0 and is now on the calendar of bills ready for the House floor. On February 13th, SB 1392 passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice by a vote of 7 to 0. The Senate bill has one committee hearing remaining in the Appropriations Committee.

Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392
Link to HB 7057: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7057

Judicial Nominating Commissions – No Action

SB 86 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) and HB 379 by Rep. Al Jacquet (D- Lantana) reinstate the composition of the judicial nominating commissions as it existed in § 20(5), Fla. Const. and § 43.29, Fla. Stat. (2000). Currently, the governor appoints nine members to each of the 26 JNCs. Three of those members are from a list recommended from The Florida Bar. Under the legislation, the governor would only appoint three members to each nine-member nominating commission. Three other members would be appointed by The Florida Bar, and then the six members of each JNC panel would select the remaining three members.

Link to SB 86: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/86
Link to HB 379: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/379

Public Records Exemption for County Attorneys & Assistant County Attorneys – No Movement This Week

HB 63 by Rep. Randy Maggard (R-Dade City) and SB 248 by Senator Ed Hooper (R- Clearwater) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for personal identifying and location information of current and former county attorneys and assistant county attorneys and their spouses & children.

SB 248 has cleared all of its committees of reference and is on the calendar of bills ready to be scheduled for floor consideration. HB 63 has not been heard by any committees.

Link to HB 63: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/63
Link to SB 248: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/248

Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct – No Action

SB 262 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) creates the Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct within the Department of Legal Affairs. The council will provide recommendations and findings relating to prosecutorial misconduct to the Department of Lawyer Regulation within The Florida Bar and to the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice. The council’s membership includes four prosecutors, four public defenders or assistant public defenders, a district court of appeal judge, and two county or circuit court judges. By January 14th of each year, the council is required to submit an annual report to the Governor, Legislature, and Chief Justice summarizing the council’s recommendations and findings during the previous calendar year.

There has been no action this session on SB 262 and a House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 262: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/262

Download Week Five Legislative Update

Despite national politics serving as the focus this week, the Legislature quietly and swiftly completed week four of the nine-week legislative session. The House subcommittee process wound down, the respective Appropriations Committees passed budgets, scores of interest groups held their “Days at the Capitol” and the legislature completed its work for the week just ahead of bad weather moving through Tallahassee.

Following is a summary of key information and issues of interest to The Florida Bar.

State Courts System Budget

This week the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed their respective budget proposals in anticipation of final action by each Chamber next week. Following this action, legislative leaders and staff must decide on how to reconcile the overall budget allocation disparities before the budget conference can begin.

Below is a chart depicting the current status of appropriations issues important to the judicial branch.

Issues Senate Criminal & Civil Justice  Appropriations Subcommittee House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee State Courts System LBR Request
Timely Resolution of Cases Initiatives $5,050,069 (64 FTEs) -0- $13,512,798 (157 FTEs)
Court Interpreting Resources & Remote Technology $5,005,356 (37 FTEs) $1,735,889 (17 FTEs) $5,470,209 (40.5 FTEs)
2nd District Court of Appeals Courthouse Construction $20 million $21 million $21 million
Problem Solving Court Database $308,542 (2 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs)
Family Court Operational Support $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs)
Certification of Additional Judges $2,139,090 (15 FTEs) $3,418,513 (21 FTEs) $3,496,422 (22 FTEs)
Appellate Judiciary Travel $125,000 $125,000 $125,000
Appellate Court Security $516,139 $516,139 (6.5 Marshalls) $516,139
Judicial Data Management for Florida Courts Statewide Network (CJNet) $448,696 $448,696 $448,696
Bar Dues Proviso Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment. Each agency, at the discretion of the agency head, may expend funds provided in this act for bar dues and for legal education courses for employees who are required to be a member of the Florida Bar as a condition of employment.

Link to Senate Appropriations Bill, SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500
Link to House Appropriations Bill, HB 5001: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5001

Circuit & County Court Judges – Differing House & Senate Budget Conforming Bills Emerge

On February 5th, the House Appropriations Committee passed HB 5301 which aligns with the Supreme Court’s certification opinion for new judges. The House bill creates 10 new circuit and county judge positions – 4 new circuit judges in the First (1), Ninth (2), and Fourteenth (1) Circuits and 6 new county court judges for Hillsborough County (4), Lee County (1), and Orange County (1).

Also on February 5th, the Senate Appropriations Committee heard a proposed bill, SPB 7050. As filed, the Senate’s conforming bill creates five new circuit judge positions – two new judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 1st Judicial Circuit, one judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit, and one judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit.

The Senate Appropriations Act, SB 2500, also contains proviso language which recommends the five additional circuit court judgeships are contingent upon the passage of SPB 7050. Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) offered an amendment SPB 7050 which creates the aforementioned 5 new circuit judge positions and creates one new county court judge in Orange County. The amendment also specifies that all of the new judgeships will be appointed, rather than elected.

Both bills are now ready for consideration by the full Senate and House. HB 5301 and SB 2500 are scheduled for Chamber floor discussion in the House and Senate, respectively, on February 12th. SB 7050 has yet to be scheduled for the Senate floor.

Link to HB 5301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5301
Link to SPB 7050: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7050
Link to SB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

Judicial Nominating Commissions – No Action

SB 86 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) and HB 379 by Rep. Al Jacquet (D- Lantana) reinstate the composition of the judicial nominating commissions as it existed in § 20(5), Fla. Const. and § 43.29, Fla. Stat. (2000). Currently, the governor appoints nine members to each of the 26 JNCs. Three of those members are from a list recommended from The Florida Bar. Under the legislation, the governor would only appoint three members to each nine-member nominating commission. Three other members would be appointed by The Florida Bar, and then the six members of each JNC panel would select the remaining three members.

Link to SB 86: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/86
Link to HB 379: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/379

Public Records Exemption for County Attorneys & Assistant County Attorneys – No Movement This Week

HB 63 by Rep. Randy Maggard (R-Dade City) and SB 248 by Senator Ed Hooper (R- Clearwater) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for personal identifying and location information of current and former county attorneys and assistant county attorneys and their spouses & children.

SB 248 has cleared all of its committees of reference and is on the calendar of bills ready to be scheduled for floor consideration. HB 63 has not been heard by any committees.

Link to HB 63: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/63
Link to SB 248: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/248

Public Records Exemption for Judicial Assistants – No Movement This Week

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. The legislation provides for the retroactive application of the exemption.

SB 128 has cleared all of its committees of reference and is on the calendar of bills ready to be scheduled for floor consideration. HB 479 has two committee hearings remaining.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128
Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – Senate Bill Scheduled for Floor Debate

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters.

After passing the full House, HJR 301 resides in the Senate awaiting action. SJR 142 is on the Senate Special Order Calendar for consideration by the full Senate on February 12th.

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters.

After passing the full House, HB 303 resides in the Senate awaiting action.

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot.

SJR 176 has one committee hearing remaining in the Rules Committee.

A parallel constitutional ballot initiative is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. On January 30th, the state Division of Elections announced that the Keep Our Constitution Clean political committee had met the legal requirement for submitting the necessary amount of petition signatures. The political committee submitted 769,769 valid petition signatures, over and above the 766,200 signature requirement. The committee submitted the requisite number of signatures prior to the deadline of Saturday, February 1st. The political committee will now also need Florida Supreme Court approval of the proposed ballot wording. If the Florida Supreme Court approves the proposal’s wording, the initiative will go on the November 2020 ballot.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176
Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142
Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301
Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303
Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Court Jurisdiction – House Committee Bill Officially Receives Bill Number

SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) revises the jurisdiction of circuit courts and the authority of county court judges temporarily designated to preside over circuit court cases. As originally filed, the bill also transferred jurisdiction for appeals of final administrative orders of local government code enforcement boards from the circuit court to the district court of appeal.

SB 1510 has two committee hearings remaining – Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and Appropriations Committee.

SB 1510 was amended to limit the scope of the original bill. Originally, the bill provided district courts of appeal jurisdiction to hear appeals of decisions of county courts in criminal and civil cases and to hear appeals relating to a variety of administrative decisions and noncriminal infractions. The amended bill does not transfer to the district courts of appeal the appellate jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear administrative decisions and appeals relating to noncriminal infractions.

The House Judiciary Committee proposal relating to appellate court jurisdiction has been officially introduced as HB 7059 and is identical to the Senate proposal.

HB 7059 has been introduced and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

Link to SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510
Link to HB 7059: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7059

Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct – No Action

SB 262 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) creates the Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct within the Department of Legal Affairs. The council will provide recommendations and findings relating to prosecutorial misconduct to the Department of Lawyer Regulation within The Florida Bar and to the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice. The council’s membership includes four prosecutors, four public defenders or assistant public defenders, a district court of appeal judge, and two county or circuit court judges. By January 14th of each year, the council is required to submit an annual report to the Governor, Legislature, and Chief Justice summarizing the council’s recommendations and findings during the previous calendar year.

There has been no action this session on SB 262 and a House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 262: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/262

Legal Notices – House Bill Passes Last Committee/Senate Bill Gets First Hearing Next Week

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices. The House adopted technical amendments to the bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices, and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located. The House also amended the language dealing with notices for property tax increases.

On February 6th, HB 7 passed the State Affairs Committee by a vote of 14 to 9 and the bill is now on the calendar of bills ready for Chamber consideration. SB 1340 is scheduled to be heard in the Judiciary Committee on February 11th.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7
Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Legal Advertising – House Committee Bill Introduced

The legislature is also considering certain restrictions of legal advertising. While generally in the purview of the Florida Supreme Court, some state legislatures across the country have passed specific restrictions on legal advertising, typically under unfair and deceptive practices statutes. Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) filed SB 1288 pertaining to the solicitation of legal services. Specifically, the bill focuses on advertisements featuring “medical alerts” or “consumer alerts” using the names or logos of a regulatory agency.

There was no movement on the Senate legislation. On February 4th, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee heard PCB CJS 20-02 on legal advertising and voted to introduce the bill officially as HB 7083.

HB 7083 prohibits legal advertisements from containing information on the use, sale, or transfer of protected health information for purposes of soliciting legal services.

Specifically, the proposed bill:

  • Prohibits a person who submits a legal advertisement for publication, broadcast, or dissemination, or who pays for or otherwise sponsors a legal advertisement from:
    • Failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose the sponsor of the advertisement;
    • Displaying federal or state government agency logos in a manner implying affiliation with a that agency;
    • Including terminology implying that the product has been recalled when it has not been;
  • Requires a legal advertisement to clearly disclose the warning, “Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor,” if the advertisement solicits clients who may allege injury from a prescription drug; and
  • Prohibits a person from using, obtaining, selling, transferring, or disclosing to another person without written authorization protected health information to solicit legal

The proposed bill also creates a cause of action for a person who suffers a physical injury as a result of a legal advertisement’s violation of these provisions and authorizes compensatory damages, attorney fees, and court costs. Additionally, the Department of Legal Affairs or a state attorney may bring an action to enjoin any person who has violated these provisions, or may bring an action on behalf of one or more consumers or governmental entities for actual damages caused by a violation of these provisions.

Link to SB 1288: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1288
Link to HB 7083: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7083

Trial Court Security – House Bill Passes Committee

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive court security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities.

On February 6th, HB 131 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 15 to 0. The committee adopted an amendment which clarified that the chief judge retains broad decision-making authority to ensure the protection of due process rights. The Senate bill is now in its final committee, the Appropriations Committee.

Link to SB 118: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/118
Link to HB 131: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/131

Jury Service – House Bill Passes Another Committee

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and HB 393 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) require students between 18 and 21 years of age who are actively enrolled as a full-time student in high school or at any state university, private postsecondary educational institution, Florida College System institution, or career center to be excused from jury service upon request.

SB 738 is now in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference. On February 6th, HB 393 passed the Education Committee by a vote of 15 to 0 and has one final hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

Link to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738
Link to HB 393: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/393

Early Childhood Courts – HB 1105 Advances This Week

SB 236 by Senator Lauren Book and HB 449 by Rep. Amber Mariano (R-Port Richey) create a new problem-solving court to support an Early Childhood Court (ECC) program for cases involving children under the age of three and uses specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial approach.

Currently, there are 22 ECC sites throughout Florida serving 350 children aged 0-3. The legislation expands ECC access while standardizing procedures for the court throughout the state.

SB 236 has two remaining committee references – the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and the Appropriations Committee. HB 449 has not been heard in committees.

SB 1324 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) makes a number of changes to the child welfare laws. Among the provisions, the bill:

  • Requires circuit and county court dependency judges to receive education relating to the value of secure attachments, stable placements and the impact of trauma on children in out-of-home
  • Codifies the creation and establishment of Early Childhood Court (ECC) programs in the circuit courts that serve cases involving children typically under the age of three by using specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial
  • Requires DCF to notify the court of any report to the central abuse hotline that involves a child under court
  • Provides circumstances under which a court may remove a child and place he or she in out-of-home care if a child was placed in the child’s own home with an in-home safety plan or was reunited with a parent with an in home safety

A comparable bill, HB 1105 by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R-Polk City), also encourages placement stability of children by requiring training to be offered to dependency court judges that informs them of the benefits of stable placements and related issues. The House bill also requires judges to consider certain factors related to placement stability when determining whether to change a child’s placement. Further, the bill required judges to be notified of all central abuse hotline reports that are accepted for an investigation and when the report involves a child over whom the court has jurisdiction.

SB 1324 is now in the full Appropriations Committee. On February 5th, HB 1105 passed the Appropriations Committee by a vote of 26 to 0 and has one hearing remaining in the Health and Human Services Committee.

Link to SB 236: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/236
Link to HB 449: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/449
Link to SB 1324: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1324
Link to HB 1105: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1105

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – House Bill Introduced

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) revises the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court. Most importantly, the bill authorizes district court of appeal judges who reside within 50 miles of his or her DCA headquarters and meet certain other criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters.

The Senate bill was amended to authorize the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices.

Additionally, the Senate bill specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers.

SB 1392 has two remaining committees of reference – the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and Appropriations Committee.

The House Judiciary Committee bill relating to appellate court headquarters and travel has been officially introduced as HB 7057. The House bill is identical to the Senate proposal and has been referred to the Appropriations Committee.

Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392
Link to HB 7057: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7057

Download Week Four Legislative Update

With the legislative session officially one-third complete, the policy focus of the legislature shrinks considerably, and the budget focus intensifies. One should consider the legislative process as a funnel, with the breadth of bills narrowing as legislative committees finish their agendas and some committees conclude their meetings as early as next week. Bills which have not received a hearing at this point have very little chance of passing. Of course, this funnel-like process is designed to focus legislative priorities and helps explain why roughly 10% of all bills filed actually pass.

Conversely, the only bill that must pass the legislature is the state budget. The budget process is moving along at its typical frenetic pace. This past week the Senate released its initial budget proposal, a spending plan totaling in $92.8 billion. The House released its proposal as well, a spending plan totaling $91.3 billion. In the next few weeks House and Senate “budgeteers” will reconcile their differences, starting with the $1.5 billion difference in the totals, and then work on the details, hopefully with an on-time conclusion.

State Courts System Budget

This week, House and Senate appropriations subcommittees released their initial budget drafts. This follows the budget milestones which occurred last fall: the agencies released their legislative budget requests in September and the Governor released his “Bolder, Brighter, Better Future” budget recommendations in December. Both chambers will continue to build independent budgets that incorporate the subcommittee drafts into a General Appropriations Act which will be heard in the respective Appropriations Committees next week, and then on the respective chamber floors for final passage. The chambers will then move to the budget conference process later in session.

Of particular interest, on January 28th, the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee proposed a $5.5 billion total budget for the justice appropriations silo of the state budget – a net increase of $154.3 million. This total represents a 2.5% increase in General Revenue over the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, 2020.

On the same day, the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee also released the Senate’s Chair’s budget plan for this portion of the budget. The Senate budget proposal totals $5.564 billion.

Below is a budget comparison of issues and allocated funding amounts for the judicial branch by the Senate and House Appropriations subcommittees, as compared to the actual State Courts System’s Legislative Budget Request (LBR).

Issues Senate Criminal & Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee State Courts System LBR Request
Timely Resolution of Cases Initiatives $5,050,069 (64 FTEs) -0- $13,512,798 (157 FTEs)
Court Interpreting Resources & Remote Technology $5,005,356 (37 FTEs) $1,735,889 (17 FTEs) $5,470,209 (40.5 FTEs)
2nd District Court of Appeals Courthouse Construction $20 million $21 million $21 million
Problem Solving Court Database $308,542 (2 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs) $581,568 (4 FTEs)
Family Court Operational Support $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs) $317,446 (2 FTEs)
Certification of Additional Judges $2,139,090 (15 FTEs) $3,418,513 (21 FTEs) $3,496,422 (22 FTEs)
Appellate Judiciary Travel $125,000 $125,000 $125,000
Appellate Court Security $516,139 $516,139

(6.5 Marshalls)

$516,139
Judicial Data Management for Florida Courts Statewide Network (CJNet) $448,696 $448,696 $448,696

Also this week, the House Justice Appropriations Committee released HB 5301 which aligns with the Supreme Court’s certification opinion for new judges recommending 4 new judicial circuit judges in the First (1), Ninth (2), and Fourteenth (1) Circuits and 6 new county court judges for Hillsborough County (4), Lee County (1), and Orange County (1).

The Senate budget proposal, SB 2500, contains proviso language which recommends 5 additional circuit court judgeships – one judge in each of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Judicial Circuits, and two in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, contingent upon passage of substantive legislation.

Link to Senate’s Budget Bill, SPB 2500: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/2500/BillText/pb/
Link to House’s Budget Bill, PCB APC 20-01
Link to Budget Conforming Bill, HB 5301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/5301/BillText/Filed

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

Following is a summary of key information and issues in Florida government which impact The Florida Bar.

Judicial Nominating Commissions – No Action

SB 86 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) and HB 379 by Rep. Al Jacquet (D- Lantana) reinstate the composition of the judicial nominating commissions as it existed in § 20(5), Fla. Const. and § 43.29, Fla. Stat. (2000). Currently, the governor appoints nine members to each of the 26 JNCs. Three of those members are from a list recommended from The Florida Bar. Under the legislation, the governor would only appoint three members to each nine-member nominating commission. Three other members would be appointed by The Florida Bar, and then the six members of each JNC panel would select the remaining three members.

Link to SB 86: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/86
Link to HB 379: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/379

Public Records Exemption for County Attorneys & Assistant County Attorneys –

Senate Bill Passes Final Committee

HB 63 by Rep. Randy Maggard (R-Dade City) and SB 248 by Senator Ed Hooper (R- Clearwater) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for personal identifying and location information of current and former county attorneys and assistant county attorneys and their spouses & children.

On January 29th, SB 248 passed its final committee referral, the Rules Committee, by a vote of 12 to 3.

Link to HB 63: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/63
Link to SB 248: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/248

Public Records Exemption for Judicial Assistants – Senate Bill Clears Final Committee

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. The legislation provides for the retroactive application of the exemption.

On January 29th, SB 128 passed the Rules Committee by a vote of 13 to 3. HB 479 has passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee and has two committee hearings remaining.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128
Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – Senate CRC Bill Clears Final Committee

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters.

After passing the full House on January 22nd, HJR 301 resides in the Senate awaiting action. On January 29th, SJR 142 passed the Rules Committee by a vote of 16 to 0. The Senate bill is now on the calendar ready to be scheduled for consideration by the full Senate.

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters.

After passing the full House on January 22nd, HB 303 resides in the Senate awaiting action.

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot.

SJR 176 had passed two Senate committees and has one hearing remaining in the Rules Committee.

A parallel constitutional ballot initiative is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. On January 30th, the state Division of Elections announced that the Keep Our Constitution Clean political committee had met the legal requirement for submitting the necessary amount of petition signatures. The political committee submitted 769,769 valid petition signatures, over and above the 766,200 signature requirement. The committee submitted the requisite number of signatures prior to the deadline of Saturday, February 1st. The political committee will now also need Florida Supreme Court approval of the proposed ballot wording. If the Florida Supreme Court approves the proposal’s wording, the initiative will go on the November 2020 ballot.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176
Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142
Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301
Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303
Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Court Jurisdiction – House Committee Introduces Proposal

SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) revises the jurisdiction of circuit courts and the authority of county court judges temporarily designated to preside over circuit court cases. As originally filed, the bill also transferred jurisdiction for appeals of final administrative orders of local government code enforcement boards from the circuit court to the district court of appeal.

On January 21st, SB 1510 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 4 to 0.

SB 1510 was amended to limit the scope of the original bill. Originally, the bill provided district courts of appeal jurisdiction to hear appeals of decisions of county courts in criminal and civil cases and to hear appeals relating to a variety of administrative decisions and noncriminal infractions. The amended bill does not transfer to the district courts of appeal the appellate jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear administrative decisions and appeals relating to noncriminal infractions.

Also last week, the House Judiciary Committee filed a companion measure, PCB JDC 20-05 relating to appellate court jurisdiction, which is identical to the amended Senate proposal.

On January 30th, the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to officially introduce the committee bill.

Link to SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510
Link to PCB JDC 20-05

Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct – No Action

SB 262 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) creates the Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct within the Department of Legal Affairs. The council will provide recommendations and findings relating to prosecutorial misconduct to the Department of Lawyer Regulation within The Florida Bar and to the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice. The council’s membership includes four prosecutors, four public defenders or assistant public defenders, a district court of appeal judge, and two county or circuit court judges. By January 14th of each year, the council is required to submit an annual report to the Governor, Legislature, and Chief Justice summarizing the council’s recommendations and findings during the previous calendar year.

There has been no action on SB 262 and a House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 262: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/262

Legal Notices – House Bill Passes

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices. The House adopted technical amendments to the bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located.

There was no movement on the Senate legislation this week. On January 30th, HB 7 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 11 to 7. The bill goes next to the State Affairs Committee. The House bill was amended with a language dealing with notices for property tax increases.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7
Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Legal Advertising – No Action

The legislature is also considering certain restrictions of legal advertising. While generally in the purview of the Florida Supreme Court, some state legislatures across the country have passed certain restrictions on legal advertising, typically under unfair and deceptive practices statutes. Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) filed SB 1288 pertaining to the solicitation of legal services. Specifically, the bill focuses on advertisements featuring “medical alerts” or “consumer alerts” using the names or logos of a regulatory agency.

Also on January 16th, the House Subcommittee on Civil Justice held a workshop on legal advertising. The Florida Bar’s Ethics Counsel, Elizabeth Tarbert, participated in the workshop and discussed the role of the Bar in lawyer advertising and served as an excellent resource to the committee members and staff.

There was no movement on the Senate legislation and a House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 1288: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1288

Trial Court Security – House Bill Passes Committee

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive court security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities.

On January 28th, HB 131 passed the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee by a vote of 12 to 0 and the bill is now in the Judiciary Committee.

Link to SB 118: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/118
Link to HB 131: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/131

Jury Service – Both Bills Pass Committees

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and HB 393 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) require students between 18 and 21 years of age who are actively enrolled as a full-time student in high school or at any state university, private postsecondary educational institution, Florida College System institution, or career center to be excused from jury service upon request.

On January 27th, SB 738 passed the Education Committee by a vote of 7 to O and is now in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference. On January 29th, HB 393 passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee by a vote of 14 to 0.

Link to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738
Link to HB 393: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/393

Early Childhood Courts – SB 1324 Advances This Week

SB 236 by Senator Lauren Book and HB 449 by Rep. Amber Mariano (R-Port Richey) create a new problem-solving court to support an Early Childhood Court (ECC) program for cases involving children under the age of three and uses specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial approach.

Currently, there are 22 ECC sites throughout Florida serving 350 children aged 0-3. The legislation expands ECC access while standardizing procedures for the court throughout the state.

SB 236 previously passed the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee by a vote of 6 to 0, and has two remaining committee references – the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and the Appropriations Committee. HB 449 has not been heard in committees.

SB 1324 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) makes a number of changes to the child welfare laws. Among the provisions, the bill:

  • Requires circuit and county court dependency judges to receive education relating to the value of secure attachments, stable placements and the impact of trauma on children in out-of-home care.
  • Codifies the creation and establishment of Early Childhood Court (ECC) programs in the circuit courts that serve cases involving children typically under the age of three by using specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial approach.
  • Requires DCF to notify the court of any report to the central abuse hotline that involves a child under court jurisdiction.
  • Provides circumstances under which a court may remove a child and place he or she in out-of-home care if a child was placed in the child’s own home with an in-home safety plan or was reunited with a parent with an in home safety plan.

A comparable bill, HB 1105 by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R-Polk City), also requires certain training to be offered to dependency court judges that informs them of the benefits of stable placements and related issues. It also requires judges to consider certain factors related to placement stability when determining whether to change a child’s placement and requires judges to be notified of all central abuse hotline reports that are accepted for an investigation and the report involves a child over whom the court has jurisdiction.

On January 28th, SB 1324 passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services by a vote of 10 to 0 and is now in the full Appropriations Committee. HB 1105 has two remaining committees – the Appropriations and Health and Human Services Committees.

Link to SB 236: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/236
Link to HB 449: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/449
Link to SB 1324: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1324
Link to HB 1105: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1105

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – House Committee Bill Introduced

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) revises the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court. Most importantly, the bill authorizes district court of appeal judges who reside within 50 miles of his or her DCA headquarters and meet certain other criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters.

The Senate bill was amended to authorize the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices.

Additionally, the Senate bill specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers.

SB 1392 has two remaining committees of reference – the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and Appropriations Committee.

On January 30th, the House Judiciary Committee officially introduced a committee proposal, PCB JDC 20-04, relating to appellate court headquarters and travel which closely aligns to the Senate proposal. The committee proposal will now be officially introduced and receive a bill number.

Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392
Link to PCB JDC 20-04

Download Week Three Legislative Update

Week two of the 2020 Legislative Session is complete. Although a short week because of the MLK holiday, legislative schedules were filled with bills moving through “the process.” The halls of the Capitol were also filled this week with people wearing white lab coats.

Pharmacists, Nurse Practitioners and other allied health professionals were out in force to support Speaker Oliva’s health care proposals. The reception these proposals receive in the Senate is one of the larger questions to be answered as the session progresses. In addition to the white coats, legislators were also visited by several county officials and school board members. And it was Space Florida Day and Florida Tourism Day at the Capitol this week. Participatory democracy is in full force in Florida’s capital city!

Supreme Court Activity

Governor Receives Slate of Nine Supreme Court Nominees

On January 23rd, the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominee Commission released a slate of nine nominees, including six state appellate judges, five women and one African- American candidate. Governor DeSantis will choose two of the nominees to replace former Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck who were selected by President Trump to serve on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. In total, 32 applicants were considered by the nominating commission for these open seats.

The recommended nominees include:

  • John Couriel, an attorney with the Miami firm Kobre & Kim
  • Renatha Francis, a Palm Beach County circuit judge
  • Jonathan Gerber, a judge on the 4th District Court of Appeal
  • Jamie Grosshans, a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal
  • Norma Lindsey, a judge on the 3rd District Court of Appeal
  • Timothy Osterhaus, a judge on the 1st District Court of Appeal
  • Eliot Pedrosa, a Miami-Dade County attorney who is U.S. executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank
  • Lori Rowe, a judge on the 1st District Court of Appeal
  • Meredith Sasso, a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal

At least one of the new justices selected must reside in the 3rd Appellate District, comprised of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Each of the state’s five appellate districts must have a representative on the Supreme Court.

Governor DeSantis will have up to 60 days to make his selections to the Supreme Court.

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

Legislation of interest to The Florida Bar is tagged and tracked as bills are filed. Following is a summary of key information and issues in Florida government which impact The Florida Bar.

Judicial Nominating Commissions – No Action

SB 86 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) and HB 379 by Rep. Al Jacquet (D- Lantana) reinstate the composition of the judicial nominating commissions as it existed in § 20(5), Fla. Const. and § 43.29, Fla. Stat. (2000). Currently, the governor appoints nine members to each of the 26 JNCs. Three of those members are from a list recommended from The Florida Bar. Under the legislation, the governor would only appoint three members to each nine-member nominating commission. Three other members would be appointed by The Florida Bar, and then the six members of each JNC panel would select the remaining three members.

Link to SB 86: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/86
Link to HB 379: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/379

Public Records Exemption for County Attorneys & Assistant County Attorneys – No Action

HB 63 by Rep. Randy Maggard (R-Dade City) and SB 248 by Senator Ed Hooper (R- Clearwater) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for personal identifying and location information of current and former county attorneys and assistant county attorneys and their spouses & children. The Senate bill has passed both the Judiciary and Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committees. SB 248 has one final hearing remaining in the Rules Committee. There was no movement on the House or Senate legislation this week.

Link to HB 63: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/63
Link to SB 248: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/248

Public Records Exemption for Judicial Assistants – No Action

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. The legislation provides for the retroactive application of the exemption. SB 128 has passed the Judiciary and Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committees. HB 479 has passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee. There was no movement on the House or Senate legislation this week.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128
Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – House Passes CRC Bills

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters. After unanimously passing both the Judiciary and the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committees, SJR 142 has one final hearing remaining in the Rules Committee. On January 22nd, HJR 301 was taken up by the full House and passed by a vote of 93 to 25.

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters. On January 22nd, HB 303 was considered and passed by the full House by a vote of 96 to 23.

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot. On November 5th, SJR 176 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 6 to 0.

Additionally, a parallel constitutional initiative effort is underway to collect enough voter petition signatures in order to appear on the November 2020 ballot. The Keep Our Constitution Clean political committee is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. The committee needs to submit 766,200 valid signatures by a February 1st deadline in order to be placed on the 2020 ballot for approval. As of January 22nd, the state Division of Elections has tallied 684,437 valid signatures for the proposal. The political committee will also need Florida Supreme Court approval of the proposed ballot wording.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176
Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142
Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301
Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303

Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Court Jurisdiction – Amended Senate Bill Passes

SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) revises the jurisdiction of circuit courts and the authority of county court judges temporarily designated to preside over circuit court cases. As originally filed, the bill also transferred jurisdiction for appeals of final administrative orders of local government code enforcement boards from the circuit court to the district court of appeal. On January 21st, SB 1510 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 4 to 0. The committee amended the bill to limit the scope of the original bill.

Originally, the bill provided district courts of appeal jurisdiction to hear appeals of decisions of county courts in criminal and civil cases and to hear appeals relating to a variety of administrative decisions and noncriminal infractions. The amended bill does not transfer to the district courts of appeal the appellate jurisdiction of circuit courts to hear administrative decisions and appeals relating to noncriminal infractions. A House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Another bill, SB 1740 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), requires the Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court to use a blind, random selection process to determine the venue for constitutional challenges of a statute or a legislative action within the circuit courts and district courts of appeal. The bill also specifies the venue for any appeal of an order or a judgment for these actions will be the First District Court of Appeal, regardless of which judicial circuit was the venue for the action. The bill stipulates the intent of the legislation is to ensure that a single trial court does not effectively have a monopoly over cases raising issues of statewide, constitutional importance. There has been no action on SB 1740 and a House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510
Link to SB 1740: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1740

Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct – No Action

SB 262 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) creates the Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct within the Department of Legal Affairs. The council will provide recommendations and findings relating to prosecutorial misconduct to the Department of Lawyer Regulation within The Florida Bar and to the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice. The council’s membership includes four prosecutors, four public defenders or assistant public defenders, a district court of appeal judge, and two county or circuit court judges. By January 14th of each year, the council is required to submit an annual report to the Governor, Legislature, and Chief Justice summarizing the council’s recommendations and findings during the previous calendar year. There has been no action on SB 262 and a House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 262: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/262

Legal Notices – No Action

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices. There was no movement on the House or Senate legislation this week. On January 15th, HB 7 passed the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee by a party line vote of 7 to 5. Technical amendments were adopted to the House bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7
Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Legal Advertising – No Action

The legislature is also considering certain restrictions of legal advertising. While generally in the purview of the Florida Supreme Court, some state legislatures across the country have passed certain restrictions on legal advertising, typically under unfair and deceptive practices statutes. Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) filed SB 1288 pertaining to the solicitation of legal services. Specifically, the bill focuses on advertisements featuring “medical alerts” or “consumer alerts” using the names or logos of a regulatory agency.

Also on January 16th, the House Subcommittee on Civil Justice held a workshop on legal advertising. The Florida Bar’s Ethics Counsel, Elizabeth Tarbert, participated in the workshop and discussed the role of the Bar in lawyer advertising and served as an excellent resource to the committee members and staff. There was no movement on the Senate legislation and a House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 1288: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1288

Trial Court Security – Senate Bill Passes Committee

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive court security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities. On January 15th, HB 131 passed the Criminal Justice Subcommittee by a vote of 13 to 0. On January 22nd, SB 118 passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice by a vote of 6 to 0.

Link to SB 118: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/118
Link to HB 131: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/131

Jury Service – Senate Bill Scheduled for Committee Hearing

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and HB 393 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) require students between 18 and 21 years of age who are actively enrolled as a full-time student in high school or at any state university, private postsecondary educational institution, Florida College System institution, or career center to be excused from jury service upon request. SB 738 is scheduled to be heard in the Education Committee on January 27th.

Link to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738
Link to HB 393: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/393

Early Childhood Courts – Comprehensive Senate Bill Clears Committee

SB 236 by Senator Lauren Book and HB 449 by Rep. Amber Mariano (R-Port Richey) create a new problem-solving court to support an Early Childhood Court (ECC) program for cases involving children under the age of three and uses specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial approach.

Currently, there are 22 ECC sites throughout Florida serving 350 children aged 0-3. The legislation expands ECC access while standardizing procedures for the court throughout the state. SB 236 previously passed the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee by a vote of 6 to 0, but there was no movement on the legislation this week.

SB 1324 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) makes a number of changes to the child welfare laws. Among the provisions, the bill:

  • Requires circuit and county court dependency judges to receive education relating to the value of secure attachments, stable placements and the impact of trauma on children in out-of-home
  • Codifies the creation and establishment of Early Childhood Court (ECC) programs in the circuit courts that serve cases involving children typically under the age of three by using specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial
  • Requires DCF to notify the court of any report to the central abuse hotline that involves a child under court
  • Provides circumstances under which a court may remove a child and place he or she in out-of-home care if a child was placed in the child’s own home with an in-home safety plan or was reunited with a parent with an in home safety

A comparable bill, HB 1105 by Rep. Josie Tomkow (R-Polk City), also requires certain training to be offered to dependency court judges that informs them of the benefits of stable placements and related issues. It also requires judges to consider certain factors related to placement stability when determining whether to change a child’s placement and requires judges to be notified of all central abuse hotline reports that are accepted for an investigation and the report involves a child over whom the court has jurisdiction.

On January 15th, SB 1324 passed the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee by a vote of 7 to 0. On January 22nd, HB 1105 passed the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee by a vote of 15 to 0.

Link to SB 236: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/236
Link to HB 449: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/449
Link to SB 1324: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1324
Link to HB 1105: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1105

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – Amended Senate Bill Passes

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) revises the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court, authorizes district court of appeal judges who meet certain criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters, specifies the eligibility for subsistence and travel reimbursement, subject to the availability of funds, and provides that a county is not required to provide space for a judge in a county courthouse. On January 21st, SB 1392 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 5 to 0.

The bill was amended to authorize the Chief Justice to set policies and parameters for the use of alternative headquarters and travel reimbursement by eligible justices.

Additionally, the amended bill specifies that its provisions control over any conflicting provision in the travel-reimbursement statute that applies to all state employees and officers. A House companion measure has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392

Florida Bar Legislative Reception

The Florida Bar’s Annual Legislative Reception is Wednesday, January 29th from 5:00- 7:30pm in the Historic Capitol’s Senate Chamber and Upper Rotunda. We look forward to seeing you in Tallahassee on that date!

Download Week Two Legislative Update

The 2020 Legislative Session commenced this week. Judging by the remarks of our state leaders and the pace of the first week of the legislative session, legislators are making up for a relatively slow interim committee process.

Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, spoke to the Senate on Tuesday to open the 2020 Legislative Session. He emphasized the need to put aside personality and politics for good policy, urging Senators to prioritize the big picture for Florida instead of their personal agendas. He stressed that the Senate had the opportunity to set the bar for the 2020’s through debating and exchanging ideas while maintaining civility and decorum.

House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, was more policy-focused in his remarks to the House. He emphasized fiscal restraint, stressing that “spending is not caring, solving is caring.” He aims to pass a budget with reduced per-capita spending, a robust tax break, and a stronger commitment to reserve balances.

Speaker Oliva identified healthcare as his top priority and the chief challenge facing the state. He referred to the “Healthcare Industrial Complex,” made up of hospitals, medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, as the “Great Robber-Barons of our time,” a term defined by “government manipulation, monopolizing industry and price gouging.” The Speaker identified stand-alone ERs, exorbitant drug prices, an insufficient

supply of primary care physicians, and scope of practice as issues within Florida’s healthcare space. He explicitly stated his support for allowing advanced nurse practitioners to practice independently, honoring a nurse practitioner instead of a physician before his remarks – a striking gesture that disrupts the tradition of the legislature.

Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off his second legislative session with the official “State of the State” speech themed around a “season of opportunity.” Governor DeSantis called for fiscal rectitude, saying, “Florida needs to tax lightly, spend wisely and regulate reasonably” and proposing a $91.4-billion budget – a 0.4% increase from last year. Despite the flat second budget recommendation, the Governor looks to push forward several initiatives.

Governor DeSantis began by calling for more legislative action on water quality issues. He advanced a number of proposals, including $300 million for the Everglades, more money for water quality improvements ($200 million over four years), $100 million for the Florida Forever land acquisition program, $280 million for water storage, and $50 million for beach restoration.

In what he has called “The Year of the Teacher,” the Governor is holding to his proposal to raise teachers’ salaries to $47,500, despite resistance from the House and education unions. This would make Florida number two in the nation for public school teachers’ salaries. Governor DeSantis also proposed replacing the Best and Brightest teacher bonus program with a new initiative and said that the replacement of Common Core would be released in the coming days.

In order to strengthen the economy, the Governor highlighted the importance of “workforce education” and called for the streamlining of occupational licensing requirements. Additionally, he stressed E-Verify reform as a way to protect against foreigners taking American jobs.

The Governor also cited several accomplishments from 2019, including appointing 3 Supreme Court justices, passing bills on drug importation and a patient savings plan, and providing effective hurricane recovery grants in the wake of Hurricanes Michael, Irma, Matthew, and Hermine.

With the direction set by Florida’s leaders, the legislature spent the remainder of the week digging into these policy issues and hundreds more. It’s going to be a hectic nine weeks!

 

Legislation of Interest to The Florida Bar

 Legislation of interest to The Florida Bar is tagged and tracked as bills are filed. Following is a summary of key information and issues in Florida government which impact The Florida Bar.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

SB 86 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) and HB 379 by Rep. Al Jacquet (D- Lantana) reinstate the composition of the judicial nominating commissions as it existed in § 20(5), Fla. Const. and § 43.29, Fla. Stat. (2000). Currently, the governor appoints nine members to each of the 26 JNCs. Three of those members are from a list recommended from The Florida Bar. Under the legislation, the governor would only appoint three members to each nine-member nominating commission. Three other members would be appointed by The Florida Bar, and then the six members of each JNC panel would select the remaining three members.

Link to SB 86: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/86
Link to HB 379: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/379

Public Records Exemptions for County Attorneys & Assistant County Attorneys/ Judicial Assistants

HB 63 by Rep. Randy Maggard (R-Dade City) and SB 248 by Senator Ed Hooper (R- Clearwater) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for personal identifying and location information of current and former county attorneys and assistant county attorneys and their spouses & children. There was no movement on the legislation this week.

Link to HB 63: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/63
Link to SB 248: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/248

SB 128 by Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) and HB 479 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) provide an exemption from the public records requirements for certain identifying and location information of current and former judicial assistants and their spouses and children. SB 128 has passed the Judiciary and Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committees. The Senate bill was amended to provide for the retroactive application of the exemption. On December 12th, HB 479 passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee by a vote of 12 to 0.

Link to SB 128: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/128
Link to HB 479: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/479

Constitution Revision Commission Proposals – House Proposals Advance

SJR 176 by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) limits any amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.” Under current law, each proposal of the Commission may embrace multiple subjects, and the Commission may even propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution. The Senate joint resolution would be voted on by the voters in 2020 and, if approved, would apply to the next CRC which is slated to meet in 2037, in advance of placing measures on the 2038 ballot. On November 5th, SJR 176 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 6 to 0.

SJR 142 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 301 by Rep. Brad Drake (R- Eucheeanna) would abolish the CRC entirely and remove any statutory references to the Commission. The proposals would require a change to the Florida Constitution approved by the voters. After unanimously passing both the Judiciary and the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committees, SJR 142 has one final hearing remaining in the Rules Committee. On January 16th, HJR 301 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 16 to 2 and is now on the calendar of bills ready for consideration by the full House chamber. Rep. Dee Hart (D-Tampa) offered an unsuccessful amendment to revise the membership selection and composition, authority, and duties of the Commission. The amendment would have allowed the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice to select 12 of the CRC’s members, rather than three, and provided that no statewide elected officers, state legislators, or elected or appointed county constitutional officers could be appointed to serve on the CRC within six years of their terms of office: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301/Amendment/207093/PDF

HB 303 filed separately by Rep. Drake would repeal all statutory references to the Constitution Revision Commission once any constitutional amendment abolishing the CRC is passed by voters. On January 16th, HB 303 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 14 to 2. Both HJR 301 and HB 303 are scheduled to be heard in the House chamber on January 22nd.

Additionally, a parallel constitutional initiative effort is underway to collect enough voter petition signatures in order to appear on the November 2020 ballot. The Keep Our Constitution Clean political committee is seeking to make it harder to amend Florida’s Constitution by having voters approve constitutional amendments twice in two elections, instead of one election, in order for them to officially take effect. The committee needs to submit 766,200 valid signatures by a February deadline in order to be placed on the 2020 ballot for approval. As of January 16th, the state Division of Elections has tallied 626,424 signatures for the proposal. The political committee will also need Florida Supreme Court approval of the proposed ballot wording.

Link to SJR 176: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/176
Link to SB 142: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/142
Link to HB 301: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/301
Link to HB 303: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/303
Link to Amendment 19-08: https://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/

Court Jurisdiction

SB 1510 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) revises the jurisdiction of circuit courts and the authority of county court judges temporarily designated to preside over circuit court cases. The bill also transfers jurisdiction for appeals of final administrative orders of local government code enforcement boards from the circuit court to the district court of appeal. SB 1510 is scheduled to be heard in the Judiciary Committee on January 21st. A House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Another bill, SB 1740 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), requires the Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court to use a blind, random selection process to determine the venue for constitutional challenges of a statute or a legislative action within the circuit courts and district courts of appeal. The bill also specifies the venue for any appeal of an order or a judgment for these actions will be the First District Court of Appeal, regardless of which judicial circuit was the venue for the action. The bill stipulates the intent of the legislation is to ensure that a single trial court does not effectively have a monopoly over cases raising issues of statewide, constitutional importance. A House companion bill has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 1510: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1510
Link to SB 1740: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1740

Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct

SB 262 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) creates the Statewide Council on Prosecutorial Misconduct within the Department of Legal Affairs. The council will provide recommendations and findings relating to prosecutorial misconduct to the Department of Lawyer Regulation within The Florida Bar and to the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice. The council’s membership includes four prosecutors, four public defenders or assistant public defenders, a district court of appeal judge, and two county or circuit court judges. By January 14th of each year, the council is required to submit an annual report to the Governor, Legislature, and Chief Justice summarizing the council’s recommendations and findings during the previous calendar year. A House companion bill has not been filed to- date.

Link to SB 262: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/262

Legal Notices

HB 7 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) and SB 1340 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) provide for the website publication of legal notices, provide criteria for such publication, authorize fiscally constrained counties to use publicly accessible websites to publish the legally required advertisements and public notices, and require governmental agencies to provide specified notice to residents concerning the alternative methods of receiving legal notices.  On January 15th, HB 7 passed the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee by a party line vote of 7 to 5. Technical amendments were adopted to the bill which clarify that the publication requirement only applies to a governmental entity who uses a website to publish notices and that the notice of proposals for any public-private partnership still has to be published in the Florida Administrative Register and in the local county in which the project would be located.

Link to HB 7: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7
Link to SB 1340: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1340

Legal Advertising

The legislature is also considering certain restrictions of legal advertising. While generally in the purview of the Florida Supreme Court, some state legislatures across the country have passed certain restrictions on legal advertising, typically under unfair and deceptive practices statutes. Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) filed SB 1288 pertaining to the solicitation of legal services. Specifically, the bill focuses on advertisements featuring “medical alerts” or “consumer alerts” using the names or logos of a regulatory agency.

Also on January 16th, the House Subcommittee on Civil Justice held a workshop on legal advertising. The Florida Bar’s Ethics Counsel, Elizabeth Tarbert, participated in the workshop and discussed the role of the Bar in lawyer advertising and served as an excellent resource to the committee members and staff.

Link to SB 1288: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1288

Personal Representatives

HB 1421 by Rep. Anika Omphroy (D-Lauderdale Lakes) revises the types of nonresidents who qualify as a personal representative to include members in good standing of The Florida Bar. A Senate companion has not been filed to-date.

Link to HB 1421: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1421

Trial Court Security – House Bill Gets First Hearing

HB 131 by Rep. Stan McClain (R- Ocala) and SB 118 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) require each county sheriff to coordinate with the board of county commissioners and the chief judge of the judicial circuit to develop a comprehensive security plan for trial court facilities. The sheriff retains authority over the implementation of security, and the chief judge retains decision-making authority to protect due process rights. The legislation also clarifies that sheriffs and their deputies, employees, and contractors are officers of the court when providing security for court facilities. On January 15th, HB 131 passed the Criminal Justice Subcommittee by a vote of 13 to 0.

Jury Service

SB 738 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and HB 393 by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) require students between 18 and 21 years of age who are actively enrolled as a full-time student in high school or at any state university, private postsecondary educational institution, Florida College System institution, or career center to be excused from jury service upon request. SB 738 previously passed the Judiciary Committee by a unanimous vote, but there was no movement on the legislation this week.

Link to SB 738: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/738
Link to HB 393: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/393

Early Childhood Courts

SB 236 by Senator Lauren Book and HB 449 by Rep. Amber Mariano (R-Port Richey) create a new problem-solving court to support an Early Childhood Court (ECC) program for cases involving children under the age of three and uses specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams, evidence-based treatment and a non-adversarial approach.

Currently, there are 22 ECC sites throughout Florida serving 350 children aged 0-3. The legislation expands ECC access while standardizing procedures for the court throughout the state. SB 236 previously passed the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee by a vote of 6 to 0, but there was no movement on the legislation this week.

Link to SB 236: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/236
Link to HB 449: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/449

Judicial Travel Reimbursement – Senate Bill Scheduled for Hearing

SB 1392 by Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) revises the provisions governing the payment of subsistence and travel reimbursement for Supreme Court justices who designate an official headquarters other than the headquarters of the Supreme Court, authorizes district court of appeal judges who meet certain criteria to have an appropriate facility in their county of residence designated as their official headquarters, specifies the eligibility for subsistence and travel reimbursement, subject to the availability of funds, and provides that a county is not required to provide space for a judge in a county courthouse. SB 1392 is scheduled to be heard in the Judiciary Committee on January 21st. A House companion measure has not been filed to-date.

Link to SB 1392: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1392

Legislative Session Communication

The preceding bills and any other newly-filed bills are tracked each week and are available to monitor on The Florida Bar Legislation Committee’s website: https://www.floridabar.org/member/legact/legact001/

Moreover, each week during the legislative session each member of the Board of Governors will receive a brief legislative update which will also be posted to the Legislation Committee’s website.

Florida Bar Legislative Reception

Reminder, The Florida Bar’s Annual Legislative Reception will be held on Wednesday, January 29th from 5:00-7:30 p.m.in the Historic Capitol’s Senate Chamber and Upper Rotunda. We look forward to seeing you that day in Tallahassee that week.

Download Week One Legislative Update