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Weekly Legislative Session Updates

2021 Legislative Session, March 2-April 30

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

Legislative Activity at The CapitolAs the Legislature enters the final two weeks of its session both controversial and non-controversial measures vie for time in the few remaining legislative committee meetings. The more controversial bills can take hours, with many amendments and scores of people testifying. The less controversial bills can pass in a matter of minutes. Each committee chair must manage the time necessary to accommodate both types of bills in the finite time allotted for the committees to meet. This past week legislators split their time between these long committee hearings and time on the chamber floor acting on legislation that has already moved through the committee process. Amidst all of this hard work, legislators and Capitol observers wait for budget negotiations to begin. The timing and outcome of these negotiations provides valuable insight as to where the Legislature will conclude its work by April 30th, the last scheduled day of the regular legislative session.

Following is an update on the bills being monitored by The Florida Bar.


Courts

SB 748 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HB 1197 by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) revise a broad range of statutes that govern the operation of the court system. Some of the changes are made to accommodate developments in technology, some reflect the impact COVID-19 has had on the court system, and one change recognizes the effect of inflation on the monetary jurisdictional thresholds in the county courts.

This week, a proposed committee rewrite of SB 748 passed in committee which includes these provisions:

  • Updates provisions controlling the maintenance of appellate court records to allow the electronic storage of court records at a remote location. These provisions are updated to keep pace with electronic technology rather than require the court clerk to keep manual control of the records.
  • Requires the clerks of court, working with the Florida Courts Technology Commission, to prepare a plan to procure or develop a statewide electronic solution that identifies all civil and criminal mandatory financial assessments required by statute.
  • Provides that the jurisdictional amount of county courts will be adjusted beginning in 2030, and every 10 years afterwards, to account for inflation based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. The jurisdictional limit must be rounded to the nearest $5,000, but no lower than $50,000.
  • Requires the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) to calculate the adjusted jurisdictional limit and certify it to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court beginning January 31, 2030 and every 10 years thereafter.
  • Requires EDR and the Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA) to publish the adjusted jurisdictional limit to their websites.
  • Authorizes a person to postpone for jury service for up to 1 year when a public health emergency or a state of emergency is declared.
  • Revises three criminal statutes to authorize the taking and certification of fingerprints when a guilty judgment is entered in a proceeding that is conducted remotely. The fingerprints no longer must be taken in open court and in the judge’s presence.

HB 1197 is on the calendar of bills ready to be considered by the full House.

SB 748 passed the Appropriations Committee, its final committee referral, on April 15 by a vote of 20-0, and is ready to be considered by the full Senate.

Jury Service

SB 442 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and HB 739 by Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Kissimmee) revise the rate of compensation for jurors to $30 per day. The bills also require the clerks of the circuit court to provide quarterly estimates regarding juror compensation costs to the Justice Administrative Commission. In addition, the bills prohibit the use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors in certain cases.

There was no movement on either bill this week.

Constitution Revision Commission

SJR 204 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 1179 by Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Lithia) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The joint resolution to abolish the commission would be on the 2022 election ballot.

HB 1181, also filed by Rep. Beltran, repeals all statutory references to the CRC, the powers of its chair, and any assistance provided to the commission by state and local agencies. The repeal would take place upon the passage of the joint resolution.

SJR 204 passed the Senate and now resides in the House.

HJR 1179 and HB 1181 are on the calendar of bills ready to be considered by the full House.

Constitutional Amendments

HJR 61 by Rep. Rick Roth (R-West Palm Beach) and SJR 1238 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the percentage of elector votes required to pass a constitutional amendment or revision from 60 percent to 66 2/3% of those voting on the measure, and to allow an amendment to or a revision of the State Constitution to be repealed by the same percentage of electors that was required at the time of passage of such amendment or revision. The joint resolution requires three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the legislature for final passage. If adopted by at least 60% of electors voting on the measure in the 2022 general election, the passage threshold change would apply to all proposed amendments or revisions voted on or after January 10, 2023.

SJR 1238 is scheduled to be heard on April 20 in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference.

HJR 61 passed the Judiciary Committee on April 15 by a vote of 13-6 and the bill is now on the calendar of bills ready to be considered by the full House.

Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act

SB 1750 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) and HB 1293 by Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Palm City) create the “Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act” requiring litigation financiers to register with the Department of State before engaging in litigation financing and to file a $250,000 surety bond with the department. “Litigation financing” is defined as a nonrecourse transaction in which a litigation financier provides funds to a consumer in exchange for an assignment of the consumer’s contingent right to receive an amount of the potential proceeds of the consumer’s civil action or claim. The legislation also provides the requirements for litigation financing contracts, authorizes litigation financiers to assess specified interest, fees, and charges, and provides that communications between attorneys and litigation financiers do not affect statutory or common-law privilege.

There was no movement on either bill this week.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

HB 161 by Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) and SB 544 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) revise the composition of judicial nominating commissions. 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. The bills also provide that no more than five members of each commission may be of the same political party. In addition, the legislation requires The Florida Bar and the Governor’s office to release demographic data on all applicants and JNC members, including ethnicity, race, disabilities, veteran status, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

There was no movement on either bill this session.

Assistant State Attorney & Assistant Public Defender Student Loan Repayment Program

HB 147 by Rep. Mike Gottlieb (D-Davie) and SB 1472 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) establish a student loan repayment program within the Florida Department of Education for assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders. The program would provide student loan payments of up to $5,000 to assistant prosecutors and public defenders who have been in their position under 10 years and earn less than $65,000.

There was no movement on either bill this session.

SB 84 sponsored by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) closes the FRS pension plan to all those commencing eligible public employment on or after July 1, 2022. These new employees would instead become compulsory members of the FRS Investment Plan (the state’s “defined contribution” plan), and they could not join the FRS pension plan under any circumstances. SB 84 also exempts members of the Special Risk Class from compulsory membership in the investment plan beginning July 1, 2022. Members of the Special Risk Class will continue to have the option of choosing the pension plan. The Special Risk Class is for members employed as law enforcement officers, firefighters, correctional officers, probation officers, paramedics and emergency technicians, among others.

SB 84 passed the Senate by a vote of 24-16 on April 8, and the House referred the bill to two House committees.

Court Clerks Package

SB 838 by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and HB 903 by Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) amend laws related to the funding of the clerks of court.

This week, a proposed committee substitute to SB 838 passed in committee which contains the following provisions:

  • Requires the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to establish and maintain a budget reserve of up to 16 percent of the budget from the previous year.
  • Specifies that fines, costs, service charges, and court costs are due immediately upon assessment.
  • Requires a person owing monies to the clerk who cannot immediately pay to contact the clerk and set up a payment plan.
  • Requires an offender to contact the clerk within 30 days after release from incarceration to arrange for payment of any outstanding court obligations.
  • Requires creation of a statewide uniform payment plan form for monies owed to a clerk.
  • Clarifies fee provisions.
  • Defines “court records” to clarify the difference between a court-related service and a county-related service.
  • Requires notice of the availability of payment plans to individuals receiving a traffic infraction or a notice of suspension of driving privilege.

On April 15, SB 838 passed the Appropriations Committee, its final committee referral, by a vote of 20-0 and the bill will be considered on the Senate floor on April 21.

HB 903 is now available for consideration by the full House.

House & Senate To Begin Budget Conference

Both House and Senate leadership indicated that the budget conference process will likely begin this weekend. Following is a rundown of the court system’s funding priorities prior to the commencement of budget conference negotiations:

Certification

Issue Court System
Request
Senate Budget
SB 254
House Budget
HB 5001
Replenish Funding for Statutory Authorized Judgeships – 10 judgeships certified by Supreme Court in 2019 and statutorily authorized by ch. 2020-112, Laws of Fla. – funding for which was vetoed. 4 circuit court judgeships (1 – 1st Circuit; 2 – 9th Circuit; and 1 – 14th Circuit), 6 county court judgeships (4 – Hillsborough County; 1 – Lee County; and 1 – Orange County), and related staff and expenses. 22.0 FTE
$3,573,297
21.0 FTE
$3,418,513
22.0 FTE
$3,567,094
Funding for Statutory Authorized Judgeships – one additional circuit court judgeship in the 14th Judicial Circuit, two additional county court judgeships in Hillsborough County, and one additional county court judgeship in St. Johns County. $1,018,433 $0 $1,346,793

Supreme Court

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Generator Docking Station – Completion of docking station to facilitate use of standby generator at Supreme Court Building. $238,392 $0 $238,392

Executive Direction (Office of the State Courts Administrator)

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Appellate Case Management Solution – Procurement of commercial-off-the-shelf case management system for Supreme Court and DCAs. $4,689,834 $8,609,668 $0

District Courts of Appeal

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Second DCA New Courthouse Building – First-year appropriation for new courthouse building. $3,600,000 $50,000,000 $0

Trial Courts

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Florida Trial Courts Pandemic Recovery Plan – Temporary adjudicatory and case support resources to address anticipated backlog in cases and new cases resulting from COVID-19 pandemic and economic conditions (amount needed each year for three years). $12,548,334 $6,274,167 $0
COVID-19 Response Needs – Personal protective equipment, technology, and other resources needed for court operations in response to pandemic. $3,070,566 $0 $0
Furnishings – Non-public areas of new and renovated courthouses (1st, 9th, and 14th circuits). $449,577 $0 $0
Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Program – Support for continued implementation of ODR service to assist litigants and courts in resolution of cases remotely. $124,680 $0 $124,680
TOTAL 22.0 FTE $29,313,113 21.0 FTE
$68,302,348
22.0 FTE
$5,276,959

Court System Pay Raises

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Court System Pay Raises – 10% pay raise for appellate court judges and each circuits’ state attorney and public defender. $0 $0 Funds are provided in Specific Appropriation 1970A to increase the annual base rate of pay by 10.0 percent over the June 30, 2021, base rate of pay for Judges – District Courts of Appeal, State Attorneys, and Public Defenders

Other Budget Issues

Issue Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Bar Dues – Authorization for State Agencies to pay bar dues for government lawyers. 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.

Legislative Activity at The CapitolThis week the legislature set the stage to develop a final spending plan for the next fiscal year. Both chambers passed their respective budgets off of the floor and are poised to iron out their differences in a budget conference. The state’s economists met this week and delivered some news that may help. State revenue projections include a $2-billion increase in state revenue – $1.475 billion for the current fiscal year and $550 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. And while state expenses have increased during the pandemic – particularly in the public health arena – the economic upturn is sure to help in crafting the final budget. Meanwhile, policy committees continue to wind down their work. Expect packed committee agendas over the next few days.

Following is an update on the bills being monitored by The Florida Bar.

Courts

SB 748 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HB 1197 by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) revise a broad range of statutes that govern the operation of the court system. Some of the changes are made to accommodate developments in technology, some reflect the impact COVID-19 has had on the court system, and one change recognizes the effect of inflation on the monetary jurisdictional thresholds in the county courts. Provisions contained in the legislation include:

  • Updates provisions controlling the maintenance of appellate court records to allow the electronic storage of court records at a remote location. These provisions are updated to keep pace with electronic technology rather than require the court clerk to keep manual control of the records.
  • The clerks of court, working with the Florida Courts Technology Commission, must prepare a plan to procure or develop a statewide electronic solution that identifies all civil and criminal mandatory financial assessments required by statute.
  • Authorizes a person to postpone for jury service for up to one year when a public health emergency or a state of emergency is declared.
  • Revises three criminal statutes to authorize the taking and certification of fingerprints when a guilty judgment is entered in a proceeding that is conducted remotely. The fingerprints no longer must be taken in open court and in the judge’s presence.
  • Provides that a clerk must no longer “keep his or her records” at the headquarters of the district court of appeal, but rather to “have an office” at the headquarters of the court.

HB 1197 and SB 748 also require the adjusted jurisdictional limit to be rounded to the nearest $5,000. Other provisions in the bills include:

  • Requiring the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) to periodically calculate and certify the jurisdictional threshold amount to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court beginning January 31, 2030, and every 10 years thereafter, with the adjusted threshold amount taking effect July 1, 2030, and every 10 years thereafter.
  • Requiring EDR and the Office of State Courts Administrators (OSCA) to publish the adjusted jurisdictional limit on their websites, and
  • Allowing a defendant to be manually fingerprinted when the court enters an electronic judgment.

HB 1197 passed the Judiciary Committee, its final committee reference, on April 6 by a vote of 15-0. The House bill is now on the calendar of bills ready to be considered by the full House. SB 748 is in the Appropriations Committee, its last committee reference.  

Jury Service

SB 442 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and HB 739 by Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Kissimmee) revise the rate of compensation for jurors to $30 per day. The bills also require the clerks of the circuit court to provide quarterly estimates regarding juror compensation costs to the Justice Administrative Commission. In addition, the bills prohibit the use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors in certain cases.

There was no movement on either bill this week.   

Constitution Revision Commission

SJR 204 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 1179 by Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Lithia) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The joint resolution to abolish the commission would be on the 2022 election ballot.

HB 1181, also filed by Rep. Beltran, repeals all statutory references to the CRC, the powers of its chair, and any assistance provided to the commission by state and local agencies. The repeal would take place upon the passage of the joint resolution.

SJR 204 passed the Senate and now resides in the House.

HJR 1179 and HB 1181 are now on the calendar of bills ready to be considered by the full House.

Constitutional Amendments

HJR 61 by Rep. Rick Roth (R-West Palm Beach) and SJR 1238 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the percentage of elector votes required to pass a constitutional amendment or revision from 60 percent to 66 2/3% of those voting on the measure, and to allow an amendment to or a revision of the State Constitution to be repealed by the same percentage of electors that was required at the time of passage of such amendment or revision. The joint resolution requires three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the legislature for final passage. If adopted by at least 60% of electors voting on the measure in the 2022 general election, the passage threshold change would apply to all proposed amendments or revisions voted on or after January 10, 2023.

SJR 1238 is in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference.

HJR 61 is in the Judiciary Committee, its final committee reference.  

Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act

SB 1750 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) and HB 1293 by Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Palm City) create the “Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act” requiring litigation financiers to register with the Department of State before engaging in litigation financing and to file a $250,000 surety bond with the department. “Litigation financing” is defined as a nonrecourse transaction in which a litigation financier provides funds to a consumer in exchange for an assignment of the consumer’s contingent right to receive an amount of the potential proceeds of the consumer’s civil action or claim. The legislation also provides the requirements for litigation financing contracts, authorizes litigation financiers to assess specified interest, fees, and charges, and provides that communications between attorneys and litigation financiers do not affect statutory or common-law privilege.

There was no movement on either bill this week.  

Judicial Nominating Commissions

HB 161 by Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) and SB 544 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) revise the composition of judicial nominating commissions. 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. The bills also provide that no more than five members of each commission may be of the same political party. In addition, the legislation requires The Florida Bar and the Governor’s office to release demographic data on all applicants and JNC members, including ethnicity, race, disabilities, veteran status, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

There was no movement on either bill this session.

Assistant State Attorney & Assistant Public Defender Student Loan Repayment Program

HB 147 by Rep. Mike Gottlieb (D-Davie) and SB 1472 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) establish a student loan repayment program within the Florida Department of Education for assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders. The program would provide student loan payments of up to $5,000 to assistant prosecutors and public defenders who have been in their position under 10 years and earn less than $65,000.

There was no movement on either bill this session.

Florida Retirement System

SB 84 sponsored by Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) closes the FRS pension plan to all those commencing eligible public employment on or after July 1, 2022. These new employees would instead become compulsory members of the FRS Investment Plan (the state’s “defined contribution” plan), and they could not join the FRS pension plan under any circumstances. SB 84 also exempts members of the Special Risk Class from compulsory membership in the investment plan beginning July 1, 2022. Members of the Special Risk Class will continue to have the option of choosing the pension plan. The Special Risk Class is for members employed as law enforcement officers, firefighters, correctional officers, probation officers, paramedics and emergency technicians, among others.

On April 8, SB 84 passed the Senate by a vote of 24-16 and the bill has been sent to the full House for consideration. There is no companion legislation in the House at this time.

Court Clerks Package

SB 838 by Sen. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and HB 903 by Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) amend laws related to the funding of the clerks of court to:

  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to establish and maintain a budget reserve of up to 16 percent of the budget from the previous year.
  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to identify areas of increased costs to the clerks, and require these increased costs be presented in the Legislative Budget Request of the clerks.

The bills amend laws related to monies owed to a clerk of court to:

  • Specify that fines, costs, service charges, and court costs are due immediately upon assessment.
  • Require a person owing monies to the clerk who cannot immediately pay to contact the clerk and set up a payment plan.
  • Require an offender to contact the clerk within 30 days after release from incarceration to arrange for payment of any outstanding court obligations.
  • Require creation of a statewide uniform payment plan form for monies owed to a clerk.
  • Require notice of the availability of payment plans to individuals receiving a traffic infraction or a notice of suspension of driving privilege.
  • The portions of the bill related to clerk funding are effective upon becoming law, the remaining portions of the bill are effective October 1, 2021.

HB 903 was amended in committee to remove provisions modifying the duties of the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation relating to funding of clerks’ offices and the provision allowing a clerk of court to request a budget increase due to financial obligations imposed on court-related functions by a county or by administrative court order. The effective date for portions of the bill was also delayed to October 1, 2021.

SB 838 is now in the Appropriations Committee, its final committee referral.

On April 8, HB 903 passed the Appropriations Committee on April 8 by a vote of 25-0. The bill is now available for consideration by the full House.

FY 2021-22 Judicial Branch Legislative Budget Request Issues

Spending the $10 billion the state is expected to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act (COVID Relief) will be a major part of the upcoming budget negotiations between the House and Senate. The House has already included some money from the federal package in its budget proposal – the Senate has not. The House proposal spends $3.5 billion of the stimulus money for deferred maintenance needs at state and school facilities, $2 billion to offset revenue losses in the state transportation trust fund, $1 billion to fund a new Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund in the governor’s office, and $630 million for environmental programs that include beach renourishment, resiliency and septic-to-sewer conversions.

Senate President Wilton Simpson said he expects the Senate will soon lay out where it believes federal money should be allocated, and indicated transportation, water projects and environmental cleanup efforts to be important priorities. Governor Ron DeSantis suggested the federal stimulus money could be used on bulking up infrastructure, bolstering efforts to fight rising sea levels and fixing the troubled unemployment compensation system.

Following is a rundown of the court system’s funding priorities prior to the commencement of budget conference negotiations:

Certification

Issue Court System
Request
Senate Budget
SB 254
House Budget
HB 5001
Replenish Funding for Statutory Authorized Judgeships – 10 judgeships certified by Supreme Court in 2019 and statutorily authorized by ch. 2020-112, Laws of Fla. – funding for which was vetoed. 4 circuit court judgeships (1 – 1st Circuit; 2 – 9th Circuit; and 1 – 14th Circuit), 6 county court judgeships (4 – Hillsborough County; 1 – Lee County; and 1 – Orange County), and related staff and expenses. 22.0 FTE
$3,573,297
21.0 FTE
$3,418,513
22.0 FTE
$3,567,094
Funding for Statutory Authorized Judgeships – one additional circuit court judgeship in the 14th Judicial Circuit, two additional county court judgeships in Hillsborough County, and one additional county court judgeship in St. Johns County. $1,018,433 $0 $1,346,793

Supreme Court

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Generator Docking Station – Completion of docking station to facilitate use of standby generator at Supreme Court Building. $238,392 $0 $238,392

Executive Direction (Office of the State Courts Administrator)

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Appellate Case Management Solution – Procurement of commercial-off-the-shelf case management system for Supreme Court and DCAs. $4,689,834 $8,609,668 $0

District Courts of Appeal

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Second DCA New Courthouse Building – First-year appropriation for new courthouse building. $3,600,000 $50,000,000 $0

Trial Courts

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Florida Trial Courts Pandemic Recovery Plan – Temporary adjudicatory and case support resources to address anticipated backlog in cases and new cases resulting from COVID-19 pandemic and economic conditions (amount needed each year for three years). $12,548,334 $6,274,167 $0
COVID-19 Response Needs – Personal protective equipment, technology, and other resources needed for court operations in response to pandemic. $3,070,566 $0 $0
Furnishings – Non-public areas of new and renovated courthouses (1st, 9th, and 14th circuits). $449,577 $0 $0
Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Program – Support for continued implementation of ODR service to assist litigants and courts in resolution of cases remotely. $124,680 $0 $124,680
TOTAL 22.0 FTE $29,313,113 21.0 FTE
$68,302,348
22.0 FTE
$5,276,959

Court System Pay Raises

Issue Court System Request Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Court System Pay Raises – 10% pay raise for appellate court judges and each circuits’ state attorney and public defender. $0 $0 Funds are provided in Specific Appropriation 1970A to increase the annual base rate of pay by 10.0 percent over the June 30, 2021, base rate of pay for Judges – District Courts of Appeal, State Attorneys, and Public Defenders

Other Budget Issues

Issue Senate Budget
SB 2500
House Budget
HB 5001
Bar Dues – Authorization for State Agencies to pay bar dues for government lawyers. 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.

Evening lighting historic State Capitol Building Tallahassee Florida

The legislature just completed week five of nine and passed the half-way point of the legislative session. The legislative process is like a funnel, the number of bills and policy issues introduced at the beginning of the legislative session narrows considerably as the process gets closer to concluding. If a filed bill has not yet been heard by a committee at this point, it likely will not pass.  And the pressure will increase over the next few weeks as both budget and policy compete for attention.

Following is an update on the bills being monitored by The Florida Bar.


Courts

SB 748 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HB 1197 by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) revise a broad range of statutes that govern the operation of the court system. Some of the changes are made to accommodate developments in technology, some reflect the impact COVID-19 has had on the court system, and one change recognizes the effect of inflation on the monetary jurisdictional thresholds in the county courts. Provisions contained in the legislation include:

  • Updates provisions controlling the maintenance of appellate court records to allow the electronic storage of court records at a remote location. These provisions are updated to keep pace with electronic technology rather than require the court clerk to keep manual control of the records.
  • The clerks of court, working with the Florida Courts Technology Commission, must prepare a plan to procure or develop a statewide electronic solution that identifies all civil and criminal mandatory financial assessments required by statute.
  • Authorizes a person to postpone for jury service for up to one year when a public health emergency or a state of emergency is declared.
  • Revises three criminal statutes to authorize the taking and certification of fingerprints when a guilty judgment is entered in a proceeding that is conducted remotely. The fingerprints no longer must be taken in open court and in the judge’s presence.
  • Provides that a clerk must no longer “keep his or her records” at the headquarters of the district court of appeal, but rather to “have an office” at the headquarters of the court.

HB 1197 and SB 748 also require the adjusted jurisdictional limit to be rounded to the nearest $5,000. Other provisions in the bills include:

  • Requiring the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) to periodically calculate and certify the jurisdictional threshold amount to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court beginning January 31, 2030, and every 10 years thereafter, with the adjusted threshold amount taking effect July 1, 2030, and every 10 years thereafter.
  • Requiring EDR and the Office of State Courts Administrators (OSCA) to publish the adjusted jurisdictional limit on their websites, and
  • Allowing a defendant to be manually fingerprinted when the court enters an electronic judgment.

HB 1197 passed the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on March 30 by a vote of 15-0 and the bill is now in the Judiciary Committee, its final reference.  

SB 748 is in the Appropriations Committee, its last committee reference.

Jury Service

SB 442 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and HB 739 by Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Kissimmee)

revise the rate of compensation for jurors to $30 per day. The bills also require the clerks of the circuit court to provide quarterly estimates regarding juror compensation costs to the Justice Administrative Commission. In addition, the bills prohibit the use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors in certain cases.

There was no movement on either bill this week.

Constitution Revision Commission

SJR 204 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 1179 by Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Valrico) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The joint resolution to abolish the commission would be on the 2022 election ballot.

HB 1181, also filed by Rep. Beltran, repeals all statutory references to the CRC, the powers of its chair, and any assistance provided to the commission by state and local agencies. The repeal would take place upon the passage of the joint resolution.

SJR 204 passed the Senate chamber on March 25 by a vote of 27-12 and now resides in the House.

HJR 1179 and HB 1181 both passed the Judiciary Committee on March 29 by votes of 16-4 and 17-3, respectively. Both bills are now on the calendar of bills ready to be considered by the full House.

Constitutional Amendments

HJR 61 by Rep. Rick Roth (R-West Palm Beach) and SJR 1238 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral)

propose an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the percentage of elector votes required to pass a constitutional amendment or revision from 60 percent to 66 2/3% of those voting on the measure, and to allow an amendment to or a revision of the State Constitution to be repealed by the same percentage of electors that was required at the time of passage of such amendment or revision. The joint resolution requires three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the legislature for final passage. If adopted by at least 60% of electors voting on the measure in the 2022 general election, the passage threshold change would apply to all proposed amendments or revisions voted on or after January 10, 2023.

SJR 1238 now resides in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference.

On March 29, HJR 61 passed the Public Integrity & Elections Committee by a vote of 11-6 and is now in the Judiciary Committee.

Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act

SB 1750 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) and HB 1293 by Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Palm City) create the “Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act” requiring litigation financiers to register with the Department of State before engaging in litigation financing and to file a $250,000 surety bond with the department. “Litigation financing” is defined as a nonrecourse transaction in which a litigation financier provides funds to a consumer in exchange for an assignment of the consumer’s contingent right to receive an amount of the potential proceeds of the consumer’s civil action or claim. The legislation also provides the requirements for litigation financing contracts, authorizes litigation financiers to assess specified interest, fees, and charges, and provides that communications between attorneys and litigation financiers do not affect statutory or common-law privilege.

There was no movement on either bill this week.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

HB 161 by Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) and SB 544 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) revise the composition of judicial nominating commissions. 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. The bills also provide that no more than five members of each commission may be of the same political party. In addition, the legislation requires The Florida Bar and the Governor’s office to release demographic data on all applicants and JNC members, including ethnicity, race, disabilities, veteran status, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Assistant State Attorney & Assistant Public Defender Student Loan Repayment Program

HB 147 by Rep. Mike Gottlieb (D-Davie) and SB 1472 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) establish a student loan repayment program within the Florida Department of Education for assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders. The program would provide student loan payments of up to $5,000 to assistant prosecutors and public defenders who have been in their position under 10 years and earn less than $65,000.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Florida Retirement System

SB 84 sponsored by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) closes the FRS pension plan to all those commencing eligible public employment on or after July 1, 2022. These new employees would instead become compulsory members of the FRS Investment Plan (the state’s “defined contribution” plan), and they could not join the FRS pension plan under any circumstances.

This week, SB 84 was amended in committee to exempt members of the Special Risk Class from compulsory membership in the investment plan beginning July 1, 2022. Members of the Special Risk Class will continue to have the option of choosing the pension plan. The Special Risk Class is for members employed as law enforcement officers, firefighters, correctional officers, probation officers, paramedics and emergency technicians, among others.

On March 31, SB 84 passed the Appropriations Committee, its final committee of reference, by a vote of 12-8.  SB 84 is scheduled to be heard by the full Senate on April 7.

There is no companion legislation in the House at this time.

Court Clerks Package

SB 838 by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and HB 903 by Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) amend laws related to the funding of the clerks of court to:

  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to establish and maintain a budget reserve of up to 16 percent of the budget from the previous year.
  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to identify areas of increased costs to the clerks, and require these increased costs be presented in the Legislative Budget Request of the clerks.

The bills amend laws related to monies owed to a clerk of court to:

  • Specify that fines, costs, service charges, and court costs are due immediately upon assessment.
  • Require a person owing monies to the clerk who cannot immediately pay to contact the clerk and set up a payment plan.
  • Require an offender to contact the clerk within 30 days after release from incarceration to arrange for payment of any outstanding court obligations.
  • Require creation of a statewide uniform payment plan form for monies owed to a clerk.
  • Require notice of the availability of payment plans to individuals receiving a traffic infraction or a notice of suspension of driving privilege.
  • The portions of the bill related to clerk funding are effective upon becoming law, the remaining portions of the bill are effective October 1, 2021.

This week, HB 903 was amended in committee to remove provisions modifying the duties of the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation relating to funding of clerks’ offices and the provision allowing a clerk of court to request a budget increase due to financial obligations imposed on court-related functions by a county or by administrative court order. The effective date for portions of the bill was also delayed to October 1, 2021.

SB 838 is now in the Appropriations Committee, its final committee referral.

HB 903 passed the Judiciary Committee on March 29 by a vote of 21-0 and the bill is now in the Appropriations Committee, its final committee referral.

House and Senate Budget

Florida House and Senate committees moved forward this week with budget proposals that stand $2 billion apart and initially take different approaches to budgeting what is expected to be nearly $10 billion in new federal stimulus money.

The House’s $97 billion proposal includes tapping into the federal money for a series of expenses, including paying for long-delayed building maintenance, upgrading the state’s unemployment system and creating a new emergency reserve in the governor’s office. The Senate proposes a $95 billion budget and has decided to hold off, for now, on factoring in the  stimulus cash.

The House would use $3.5 billion of the stimulus money for deferred maintenance needs at state and school facilities; provide $2 billion to offset revenue losses in the state transportation trust fund; provide $1 billion to fund a new Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund in the governor’s office; provide $630 million for environmental programs that include beach renourishment, resiliency, and septic-to-sewer conversions; and provide $2.2 billion boost to reserves. Lawmakers may also see an increase in available cash next week when state economists revise general revenue estimates.

This week’s committee votes on the budget proposals were initial steps as leaders prepare to negotiate a final FY 2021-2022 budget. The budgets will be on the floor in both chambers on Wednesday April 7 and voted out and ready for conference by Friday April 9.

The court system fared well in each chamber’s initial budgets, with priority issues included in either one or both chambers, as well as funding for the judgeships previously created in 2020, but not funded due to COVID budget vetoes.  Below is a chart outlining the status of the court system funding priorities.

FY 2021-22 Judicial Branch Legislative Budget Request Issues
Issue

 

Court System Request

 

Senate Budget

 

House Budget

 

Certification

Replenish Funding for Statutory Authorized Judgeships – 10 judgeships certified by Supreme Court in 2019 and statutorily authorized by ch. 2020-112, Laws of Fla. – funding for which was vetoed.  4 circuit court judgeships (1 – 1st Circuit; 2 – 9th Circuit; and 1 – 14th Circuit), 6 county court judgeships (4 – Hillsborough County; 1 – Lee County; and 1 – Orange County), and related staff and expenses. 22.0 FTE $3,573,297 21.0 FTE

$3,418,513

22.0 FTE

$3,567,094

Funding for Statutory Authorized Judgeships – one additional circuit court judgeship in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, two additional county court judgeships in Hillsborough County, and one additional county court judgeship in St. Johns County. $1,018,433 $0 $1,346,793

Supreme Court

Generator Docking Station – Completion of docking station to facilitate use of standby generator at Supreme Court Building. $238,392 $0 $238,392

Executive Direction (Office of the State Courts Administrator)

Appellate Case Management Solution – Procurement of commercial-off-the-shelf case management system for Supreme Court and DCAs. $4,689,834 $8,609,668 $0

District Courts of Appeal

Second DCA New Courthouse Building – First-year appropriation for new courthouse building. $3,600,000 $50,000,000 $0

Trial Courts

Florida Trial Courts Pandemic Recovery Plan – Temporary adjudicatory and case support resources to address anticipated backlog in cases and new cases resulting from COVID-19 pandemic and economic conditions (amount needed each year for three years). $12,548,334 $6,274,167 $0
COVID-19 Response Needs – Personal protective equipment, technology, and other resources needed for court operations in response to pandemic. $3,070,566 $0 $0
Furnishings – Non-public areas of new and renovated courthouses (1st, 9th, and 14th circuits). $449,577 $0 $0
Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Program – Support for continued implementation of ODR service to assist litigants and courts in resolution of cases remotely. $124,680 $0 $124,680
TOTAL 22.0 FTE $29,313,113 21.0 FTE

$68,302,348

22.0 FTE

$5,276,959

Court System Pay Raises

Court System Pay Raises – 10% pay raise for appellate court judges and each circuits’ state attorney and public defender. $0 $0 Funds are provided in Specific Appropriation 1970A to increase the annual base rate of pay by 10.0 percent over the June 30, 2021, base rate of pay for Judges – District Courts of Appeal, State Attorneys, and Public Defenders

 

Other Budget Issues
Issue Senate Budget House Budget
Bar Dues – Authorization for State Agencies to pay bar dues for government lawyers. 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.

Evening lighting historic State Capitol Building Tallahassee FloridaThe legislature concluded week four of the nine-week legislative session, and the legislature entered the phase of the legislative process where the merging of policy and budget begins. Policy committees are in the midst of dealing with hundreds of bills, almost all of which impact one or more of the interested parties represented in Tallahassee. Appropriation subcommittees also released initial budget proposals this week which reflect the realities of COVID-19 on state coffers and do not yet reflect the potential infusion of federal stimulus dollars. The next few weeks of the legislative session will now focus on both policy and budget considerations as the session enters into its typical pressure cooker phase.

Following is an update on bills being monitored by The Florida Bar.


Courts

SB 748 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HB 1197 by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) revise a broad range of statutes that govern the operation of the court system. Some of the changes are made to accommodate developments in technology, some reflect the impact COVID-19 has had on the court system, and one change recognizes the effect of inflation on the monetary jurisdictional thresholds in the county courts. Provisions contained in the legislation include:

  • Updates provisions controlling the maintenance of appellate court records to allow the electronic storage of court records at a remote location. These provisions are updated to keep pace with electronic technology rather than require the court clerk to keep manual control of the records.
  • The clerks of court, working with the Florida Courts Technology Commission, must prepare a plan to procure or develop a statewide electronic solution that identifies all civil and criminal mandatory financial assessments required by statute.
  • Authorizes a person to postpone for jury service for up to one year when a public health emergency or a state of emergency is declared.
  • Revises three criminal statutes to authorize the taking and certification of fingerprints when a guilty judgment is entered in a proceeding that is conducted remotely. The fingerprints no longer must be taken in open court and in the judge’s presence.
  • Provides that a clerk must no longer “keep his or her records” at the headquarters of the district court of appeal, but rather to “have an office” at the headquarters of the court.

This week, HB 1197 and SB 748 were amended to require the adjusted jurisdictional limit to be rounded to the nearest $5,000. Other changes in the bills included:

  • Requiring the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) to periodically calculate and certify the jurisdictional threshold amount to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court beginning January 31, 2030, and every 10 years thereafter, with the adjusted threshold amount taking effect July 1, 2030, and every 10 years thereafter.
  • Requiring EDR and the Office of State Courts Administrators (OSCA) to publish the adjusted jurisdictional limit on their websites, and
  • Allowing a defendant to be manually fingerprinted when the court enters an electronic judgment.

HB 1197 passed the Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee on March 23 by a vote of 16-0.

SB 748 passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice on March 24 by a vote of 8-0.

Jury Service

SB 442 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and HB 739 by Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Kissimmee) revise the rate of compensation for jurors to $30 per day. The bills also require the clerks of the circuit court to provide quarterly estimates regarding juror compensation costs to the Justice Administrative Commission. In addition, the bills prohibit the use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors in certain cases.

There was no movement on either bill this week.

Constitution Revision Commission

SJR 204 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 1179 by Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Valrico) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

HB 1181, also filed by Rep. Beltran, repeals all statutory references to the CRC, the powers of its chair, and any assistance provided to the commission by state and local agencies. The repeal would take place upon the passage of the joint resolution.

SJR 204 passed the Senate chamber on March 25 by a vote of 27-12.

HJR 1179 and HB 1181 are scheduled to be heard on March 29 by the Judiciary Committee.

Constitutional Amendments

HJR 61 by Rep. Rick Roth (R-West Palm Beach) and SJR 1238 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the percentage of elector votes required to pass a constitutional amendment or revision from 60 percent to 66 2/3% of those voting on the measure, and to allow an amendment to or a revision of the State Constitution to be repealed by the same percentage of electors that was required at the time of passage of such amendment or revision. The joint resolution requires three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature for final passage. If adopted by at least 60% of electors voting on the measure in the 2022 general election, the passage threshold change would apply to all proposed amendments or revisions voted on or after January 10, 2023.

SJR 1238 now resides in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference.

HJR 61 will get it first committee hearing on March 29 in the Public Integrity & Elections Committee.

Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act

SB 1750 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) and HB 1293 by Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Palm City) create the “Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act” requiring litigation financiers to register with the Department of State before engaging in litigation financing and to file a $250,000 surety bond with the department. “Litigation financing” is defined as a nonrecourse transaction in which a litigation financier provides funds to a consumer in exchange for an assignment of the consumer’s contingent right to receive an amount of the potential proceeds of the consumer’s civil action or claim. The legislation also provides the requirements for litigation financing contracts, authorizes litigation financiers to assess specified interest, fees, and charges, and provides that communications between attorneys and litigation financiers do not affect statutory or common-law privilege.

SB 1750 was scheduled to be heard in the Banking and Insurance Committee on March 24; however, the bill was postponed.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

HB 161 by Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) and SB 544 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) revise the composition of judicial nominating commissions. 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. The bills also provide that no more than five members of each commission may be of the same political party. In addition, the legislation requires The Florida Bar and the Governor’s office to release demographic data on all applicants and JNC members, including ethnicity, race, disabilities, veteran status, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Assistant State Attorney & Assistant Public Defender Student Loan Repayment Program

HB 147 by Rep. Mike Gottlieb (D-Davie) and SB 1472 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) establish a student loan repayment program within the Florida Department of Education for assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders. The program would provide student loan payments of up to $5,000 to assistant prosecutors and public defenders who have been in their position under 10 years and earn less than $65,000.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Florida Retirement System

SB 84 sponsored by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) closes the FRS pension plan to all those commencing eligible public employment on or after July 1, 2022. These new employees would instead become compulsory members of the FRS Investment Plan (the state’s “defined contribution” plan), and they could not join the FRS pension plan under any circumstances.

SB 84 awaits action by the Appropriations Committee, its final committee of reference. There is no companion legislation in the House currently.

Court Clerks Package

SB 838 by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and HB 903 by Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) amend laws related to the funding of the clerks of court to:

  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to establish and maintain a budget reserve of up to 16 percent of the budget from the previous year.
  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to identify areas of increased costs to the clerks, and require these increased costs be presented in the Legislative Budget Request of the clerks.

The bills amend laws related to monies owed to a clerk of court to:

  • Specify that fines, costs, service charges, and court costs are due immediately upon assessment.
  • Require a person owing monies to the clerk who cannot immediately pay to contact the clerk and set up a payment plan.
  • Require an offender to contact the clerk within 30 days after release from incarceration to arrange for payment of any outstanding court obligations.
  • Require creation of a statewide uniform payment plan form for monies owed to a clerk.
  • Require notice of the availability of payment plans to individuals receiving a traffic infraction or a notice of suspension of driving privilege.
  • The portions of the bill related to clerk funding are effective upon becoming law, the remaining portions of the bill are effective October 1, 2021.

SB 838 is now in the Appropriations Committee, its final committee referral.

HB 903 is scheduled to be considered on March 29 in the Judiciary Committee.

State Court System Funding Proposals Released

On March 24, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice chaired by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) released FY 2021-2022 Subcommittee Budget Proposal. On March 25, the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) released the Chair’s Budget Proposal & Budget Reversions for FY 2021-22. The House subcommittee also voted unanimously to officially introduce a budget conforming bill relating to circuit and county court judges filed as HB 5301.

The proposals form the basis of each chamber’s overall budget that will ultimately be negotiated prior to the legislature’s final adoption of the 2021-22 budget. Neither budget reflects the anticipated infusion of federal stimulus dollars. Highlights of each budget proposal include:

House:

  • Funds 10 judgeships that were created in statute last year but did not receive an appropriation due to a budget veto.
  • Funds three new county court judgeships – two in Hillsborough County and one in St. Johns County – and one new circuit court judgeship in the 14th Judicial Circuit.
  • Funds the online dispute resolution program.

Senate:

  • Cuts the overall recurring base budget by 3%.
  • Funds construction of a new 2nd District Court of Appeal at $50 million
  • Funds the trial court Pandemic Recovery Program at $6.2 million.
  • Funds 21 judgeships that were created in statute last year but did not receive an appropriation due to a budget veto.

Evening lighting historic State Capitol Building Tallahassee FloridaWeek three of the nine-week legislative session concluded after moving at the typical pace at this point in the process – crowded committee agendas, more bills being “fixed” via the amendatory process, and final actions taken on agreed upon priorities. Factors impacting the state budget, however, were anything but typical. The details of the federal COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan Act, have been assessed by Governor DeSantis and legislative leaders. Of the more than $17 billion in relief funds coming to Florida, over $9 billion will flow into the 2021-22 state budget. In most cases, these dollars cannot be held over for future years, nor used to pay for projects over time.

The legislature was poised to deal with a budget shortfall of over $2 billion dollars, and now has an influx of cash to meet the state’s needs. Governor DeSantis recently announced a package of $4.1 billion in spending focused mainly on infrastructure and resiliency funding, which received a warm welcome from the legislature. The legislature must now make a huge pivot to re-assess its budget priorities with only six weeks left in the session.

Following is an update on bills being monitored by The Florida Bar.


Courts

SB 748 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg and HB 1197 by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) delete the requirement that the Clerk of the Supreme Court physically keep books, records, and other materials in the clerk’s office and require the clerks of circuit court to collaborate with the state courts through the Florida Courts Technology Commission to prepare a plan to procure or develop a statewide electronic solution that will accurately identify all assessments mandated by statute. The plan must, at a minimum, address operational, technological, and fiscal considerations related to implementation of the electronic solution and the plan must be submitted to the Senate President and House Speaker by January 1, 2022. The legislation also provides for the periodic inflationary adjustment of the monetary jurisdictional limit applicable to all actions at law in county courts filed on or after a specified date., beginning in 2030. Finally, the bills require the clerk of a district court of appeal to have an office at the headquarters of the court.

SB 748 has two hearings remaining and currently resides in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing.

Jury Service

SB 442 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and HB 739 by Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Kissimmee) revise the rate of compensation for jurors to $30 per day. The bills also require the clerks of the circuit court to provide quarterly estimates regarding juror compensation costs to the Justice Administrative Commission. In addition, the bills prohibit the use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors in certain cases.

There was no movement on either bill this week.

Constitution Revision Commission

SJR 204 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 1179 by Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Valrico) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

HB 1181, also filed by Rep. Beltran, repeals all statutory references to the CRC, the powers of its chair, and any assistance provided to the commission by state and local agencies. The repeal would take place upon the passage of the joint resolution.

HJR 1179 passed the Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee on March 17 by a vote of 12-4 and is now in the Judiciary Committee.

HB 1181 passed the Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee on March 17 by a vote of 12-4 and is now in the Judiciary Committee.

SJR 204 was taken up by the full Senate on March 18 with a final vote on the bill expected on March 25.

Constitutional Amendments

HJR 61 by Rep. Rick Roth (R-West Palm Beach) and SJR 1238 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the percentage of elector votes required to pass a constitutional amendment or revision from 60 percent to 66 2/3% of those voting on the measure, and to allow an amendment to or a revision of the State Constitution to be repealed by the same percentage of electors that was required at the time of passage of such amendment or revision. The joint resolution requires three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature for final passage. If adopted by at least 60% of electors voting on the measure in the 2022 general election, the passage threshold change would apply to all proposed amendments or revisions voted on or after January 10, 2023.

SJR 1238 now resides in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference. There has been no movement on HJR 61.

Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act

SB 1750 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) and HB 1293 by Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Palm City) create the “Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act” requiring litigation financiers to register with the Department of State before engaging in litigation financing and to file a $250,000 surety bond with the department. “Litigation financing” is defined as a nonrecourse transaction in which a litigation financier provides funds to a consumer in exchange for an assignment of the consumer’s contingent right to receive an amount of the potential proceeds of the consumer’s civil action or claim. The legislation also provides the requirements for litigation financing contracts, authorizes litigation financiers to assess specified interest, fees, and charges, and provides that communications between attorneys and litigation financiers do not affect statutory or common-law privilege.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

HB 161 by Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) and SB 544 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) revise the composition of judicial nominating commissions. 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. The bills also provide that no more than five members of each commission may be of the same political party. In addition, the legislation requires The Florida Bar and the Governor’s office to release demographic data on all applicants and JNC members, including ethnicity, race, disabilities, veteran status, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Assistant State Attorney & Assistant Public Defender Student Loan Repayment Program

HB 147 by Rep. Mike Gottlieb (D-Davie) and SB 1472 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) establish a student loan repayment program within the Florida Department of Education for assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders. The program would provide student loan payments of up to $5,000 to assistant prosecutors and public defenders who have been in their position under 10 years and earn less than $65,000.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Florida Retirement System

SB 84 sponsored by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) closes the FRS pension plan to all those commencing eligible public employment on or after July 1, 2022. These new employees would instead become compulsory members of the FRS Investment Plan (the state’s “defined contribution” plan), and they could not join the FRS pension plan under any circumstances.

SB 84 awaits action by the Appropriations Committee, its final committee of reference in the Senate. There is no companion legislation in the House at this time.

Court Clerks Package

SB 838 by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and HB 903 by Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) amend laws related to the funding of the clerks of court to:

  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to establish and maintain a budget reserve of up to 16 percent of the budget from the previous year.
  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to identify areas of increased costs to the clerks, and require these increased costs be presented in the Legislative Budget Request of the clerks.

The bills amend laws related to monies owed to a clerk of court to:

  • Specify that fines, costs, service charges, and court costs are due immediately upon assessment.
  • Require a person owing monies to the clerk who cannot immediately pay to contact the clerk and set up a payment plan.
  • Require an offender to contact the clerk within 30 days after release from incarceration to arrange for payment of any outstanding court obligations.
  • Require creation of a statewide uniform payment plan form for monies owed to a clerk.
  • Require notice of the availability of payment plans to individuals receiving a traffic infraction or a notice of suspension of driving privilege.
  • The portions of the bill related to clerk funding are effective upon becoming law, the remaining portions of the bill are effective October 1, 2021.

SB 838 passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice on March 17 by a vote of 7-0.

HB 903 has three committee references remaining and is now in the Judiciary Committee.

Governor’s Stimulus Funding Plan Announced

On March 16, Governor DeSantis announced his federal stimulus budget recommendations and specifically recommended spending of the stimulus funds in this year’s budget.

Specifically, the Governors’ stimulus plan included:

  • $208.4 million to provide a one-time $1,000 bonus to pandemic first responders which includes law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians.
  • $73.2 million to repair, upgrade, and modernize the infrastructure for the beleaguered CONNECT re-employment (unemployment) system.
  • $56.6 million for reemployment assistance operations to accommodate the increase in unemployment volume and claims.
  • $72 million for a behavioral health management system to streamline access to behavioral health services and to identify individuals across the multi-systems of care (a priority of First Lady Casey DeSantis).
  • $260 million in economic development and recovery funds for Florida’s seaports which equates to the loses this industry accrued during the pandemic.
  • $150 million for additional funding for the Job Growth Grant Fund.
  • $50 million for Visit Florida.
  • $50 million for the Florida Department of Transportation’s Economic Development Transportation Fund, in addition to the $50 million the Governor requested in his budget.
  • $1 billion for the Resilient Florida Grant Program (a priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls).
  • $41.7 million for recruitment and expansion of the Florida National Guard.
  • $1 billion in new Emergency Management Response Funds for current and future pandemics and state emergencies.
  • $938 million to the FDOT’s work program for road projects that were delayed due to the pandemic.
  • $60 million for Florida’s school districts and college system for new skilled labor training.
  • $125 million for creation of a new Fleet program within the Department of Education.
  • $10 million in additional funding for the Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program to supplement the $5 million in the Governor’s budget recommendations.

When he unveiled his stimulus spending plan, the Governor also indicated that he would like to set aside additional dollars in Florida’s Budget Stabilization Trust Fund if this is permitted under the federal guidelines and restrictions for states to spend stimulus funds.

Senate President Wilton Simpson has said he also wants to use the federal relief package to supplement the state’s unemployment trust fund and to stimulate the economy with local projects. Simpson wants Florida’s share of the federal stimulus to go toward projects that require a one-time funding amount, instead of projects that would need recurring funding for several budget years. The Senate President and House Speaker Chris Sprowls would also like to use $2 billion in stimulus funds to bolster the state’s unemployment trust fund to allow legislators to cut businesses’ unemployment tax. House Speaker Chris Sprowls expressed a strong desire to act on many of Governor’s recommendations and specifically cited his support for establishing an emergency preparedness fund and funding for the Resilient Florida Initiative.

Legislative Activity at The Capitol“COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers clears committee.” “Wilton Simpson, Chris Sprowls plan to rebuild unemployment trust with online sale tax.” “Florida lawmakers move to ban absentee ballot drop boxes.” “Bill to crack down on violent protests marches forward in Florida House.” “Jeff Brandes’ electric and autonomous vehicle bills zoom forward.” “Data privacy bill gets unanimous approval in first hearing.” “PACE septic-to-sewer expansion clears first Senate panel.” “Lawmaker eyes gaps in mental health care.”

The legislature is in full swing as it completes week two of its nine-week legislative session. And while COVID-related policy is of prime importance, the legislature is proving that it intends to address myriad policy issues in 2021.

Following is an update on bills being monitored by The Florida Bar.


Courts

SB 748 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg and HB 1197 by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) delete the requirement that the Clerk of the Supreme Court physically keep books, records, and other materials in the clerk’s office and require the clerks of circuit court to collaborate with the state courts through the Florida Courts Technology Commission to prepare a plan to procure or develop a statewide electronic solution that will accurately identify all assessments mandated by statute. The plan must, at a minimum, address operational, technological, and fiscal considerations related to implementation of the electronic solution and the plan must be submitted to the Senate President and House Speaker by January 1, 2022.. The legislation also provides for the periodic inflationary adjustment of the monetary jurisdictional limit applicable to all actions at law in county courts filed on or after a specified date., beginning in 2030. Finally, the bills require the clerk of a district court of appeal to have an office at the headquarters of the court.

SB 748 passed the Judiciary Committee on March 2 by a vote of 11-0. The Senate bill has two hearings remaining and currently sits in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing.

Jury Service

SB 442 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and HB 739 by Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Kissimmee) revise the rate of compensation for jurors to $30 per day. The bills also require the clerks of the circuit court to provide quarterly estimates regarding juror compensation costs to the Justice Administrative Commission. In addition, the bills prohibit the use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors in certain cases.

There was no movement on either bill this week.

Constitution Revision Commission

SJR 204 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 1179 by Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Valrico) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

HB 1181, also filed by Rep. Beltran, repeals all statutory references to the CRC, the powers of its chair, and any assistance provided to the commission by state and local agencies. The repeal would take place upon the passage of the joint resolution.

Having already passed the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, SJR 204 passed the Rules Committee on February 18 by a vote of 12-3. The bill is now available for Senate floor consideration. There has been no movement on HJR 1179 or HB 1181.

Constitutional Amendments

HJR 61 by Rep. Rick Roth (R-West Palm Beach) and SJR 1238 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the percentage of elector votes required to pass a constitutional amendment or revision from 60 percent to 66 2/3% of those voting on the measure, and to allow an amendment to or a revision of the State Constitution to be repealed by the same percentage of electors that was required at the time of passage of such amendment or revision. The joint resolution requires three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature for final passage. If adopted by at least 60% of electors voting on the measure in the 2022 general election, the passage threshold change would apply to all proposed amendments or revisions voted on or after January 10, 2023.

SJR 1238 passed the Ethics and Elections Committee on March 9 by a vote of 5-3. The bill now resides in the Rules Committee, its final committee reference. There has been no movement on HJR 61.

Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act

SB 1750 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) and HB 1293 by Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Palm City) create the “Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act” requiring litigation financiers to register with the Department of State before engaging in litigation financing and to file a $250,000 surety bond with the department. “Litigation financing” is defined as a nonrecourse transaction in which a litigation financier provides funds to a consumer in exchange for an assignment of the consumer’s contingent right to receive an amount of the potential proceeds of the consumer’s civil action or claim. The legislation also provides the requirements for litigation financing contracts, authorizes litigation financiers to assess specified interest, fees, and charges, and provides that communications between attorneys and litigation financiers do not affect statutory or common-law privilege.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

HB 161 by Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) and SB 544 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) revise the composition of judicial nominating commissions. 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. The bills also provide that no more than five members of each commission may be of the same political party. In addition, the legislation requires The Florida Bar and the Governor’s office to release demographic data on all applicants and JNC members, including ethnicity, race, disabilities, veteran status, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Assistant State Attorney & Assistant Public Defender Student Loan Repayment Program

HB 147 by Rep. Mike Gottlieb (D-Davie) and SB 1472 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) establish a student loan repayment program within the Florida Department of Education for assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders. The program would provide student loan payments of up to $5,000 to assistant prosecutors and public defenders who have been in their position under 10 years and earn less than $65,000.

There has been no movement on either bill.

Florida Retirement System

SB 84 sponsored by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) closes the FRS pension plan to all those commencing eligible public employment on or after July 1, 2022. These new employees would instead become compulsory members of the FRS Investment Plan (the state’s “defined contribution” plan), and they could not join the FRS pension plan under any circumstances.

SB 84 awaits action by the Appropriations Committee, its final committee of reference in the Senate. There is no companion legislation in the House at this time.

Court Clerks Package

SB 838 by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and HB 903 by Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) amend laws related to the funding of the clerks of court to:

  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to establish and maintain a budget reserve of up to 16 percent of the budget from the previous year.
  • Require the Clerk of Courts Operations Corporation to identify areas of increased costs to the clerks, and require these increased costs be presented in the Legislative Budget Request of the clerks.

The bills amend laws related to monies owed to a clerk of court to:

  • Specify that fines, costs, service charges, and court costs are due immediately upon assessment.
  • Require a person owing monies to the clerk who cannot immediately pay to contact the clerk and set up a payment plan.
  • Require an offender to contact the clerk within 30 days after release from incarceration to arrange for payment of any outstanding court obligations.
  • Require creation of a statewide uniform payment plan form for monies owed to a clerk.
  • Require notice of the availability of payment plans to individuals receiving a traffic infraction or a notice of suspension of driving privilege.
  • The portions of the bill related to clerk funding are effective upon becoming law, the remaining portions of the bill are effective October 1, 2021.

SB 838 passed the Judiciary Committee on March 9 by a vote of 10-0.

HB 903 passed the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on March 11 by a vote of 15-0.

The 2021 Legislative Session commenced on Tuesday, March 2 and the Coronavirus pandemic and the pandemic’s response will permeate all aspects of the session. Access to the Capitol is limited as the legislature tries to ensure a safe work environment and much, but not all, of the policy discussions, will be related to pandemic response. During the opening day ceremonies, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls addressed legislators and outlined their policy priorities.

In his State of the State address to the legislature, Governor DeSantis acknowledged the resilience and heroism of Florida’s response to COVID-19 and reviewed the impacts that his policies had on mitigating the damage caused by the pandemic to Florida. The Governor reported that the state’s current fiscal outlook is much better than the bleak forecasts from last spring. DeSantis vowed to protect personal data and fight “de-platforming” by technology companies, crackdown of ballot harvesting to improve the integrity of Florida’s elections, push “anti-rioting” legislation, and continue with investments in flood protection projects and Everglades restoration. He also offered support for COVID liability legislation for business and health care providers, reforms to “improve the state’s legal climate,” reforms to the emergency powers of local governments, a crackdown on the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign influence, and support for investments in state infrastructure.

Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) addressed the budget and policy challenges by the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted his priorities for the session. Simpson characterized the budget outlook as bleak but improving with the infusion of federal funds which will provide the legislature the opportunity to make nonrecurring, one-time investments in infrastructure and to replenish state trust funds. The Senate President’s priorities include protecting businesses and health care providers from “frivolous” COVID-19-related lawsuits, addressing unfunded mandates in the Florida Retirement System, reforming Florida’s child welfare system, streamlining and expanding school choice, expanding job incentives through vocational training, increasing the pay of the lowest paid state workers, and focusing Everglades restoration on areas north of Lake Okeechobee.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) thanked members for their ongoing dialogue and spoke briefly on the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment, health care, rising sea levels and “intolerance created by the rising Woke agenda.” Sprowls told House members “We have much work to do to address the pandemic and to ensure our laws align with the real-world problems that we have encountered over the last year.”

Following is an update on The Florida Bar’s priorities.


Courts

SB 748 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg and HB 1197 by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) delete the requirement that the Clerk of the Supreme Court physically keep books, records, and other materials in the clerk’s office and require the clerks of circuit court to collaborate with the state courts through the Florida Courts Technology Commission to prepare a plan to procure or develop a statewide electronic solution that will accurately identify all assessments mandated by statute. The plan must, at a minimum, address operational, technological, and fiscal considerations related to implementation of the electronic solution and the plan must be submitted to the Senate President and House Speaker by January 1, 2022. The legislation also provides for the periodic inflationary adjustment of the monetary jurisdictional limit applicable to all actions at law in county courts filed on or after a specified date., beginning in 2030. Finally, the bills require the clerk of a district court of appeal to have an office at the headquarters of the court.

On March 2, SB 748 passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 11-0.

Jury Service

SB 442 by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) and HB 739 by Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Kissimmee) revise the rate of compensation for jurors to $30 per day. The bills also require the clerks of the circuit court to provide quarterly estimates regarding juror compensation costs to the Justice Administrative Commission. In addition, the bills prohibit the use of peremptory challenges to strike prospective jurors in certain cases.

Constitution Revision Commission

SJR 204 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and HJR 1179 by Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Valrico) propose an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

HB 1181, also filed by Rep. Beltran, repeals all statutory references to the CRC, the powers of its chair, and any assistance provided to the commission by state and local agencies. The repeal would take place upon the passage of the joint resolution.

Having already passed the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, SJR 204 passed the Rules Committee by a vote of 12-3 on February 18. The bill is now available for Senate floor consideration.

Constitutional Amendments

HJR 61 by Rep. Rick Roth (R-West Palm Beach) and SJR 1238 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to increase percentage of elector votes required to approve amendment to or revision of State Constitution from 60 percent to 66 & 2/3 percent. The joint resolution also provides that repeal of an amendment or revision need only be approved by same percentage of elector votes as was required at time of passage of such amendment or revision.

On March 1, SJR 1238 was scheduled to be heard in the Ethics and Elections Committee; however the meeting was cancelled. The bill is rescheduled in this committee on March 9.

Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act

SB 1750 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) and HB 1293 by Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Palm City) create the “Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act” requiring litigation financiers to register with the Department of State before engaging in litigation financing and to file a $250,000 surety bond with the department. “Litigation financing” is defined as a nonrecourse transaction in which a litigation financier provides funds to a consumer in exchange for an assignment of the consumer’s contingent right to receive an amount of the potential proceeds of the consumer’s civil action or claim. The legislation also provides the requirements for litigation financing contracts, authorizes litigation financiers to assess specified interest, fees, and charges, and provides that communications between attorneys and litigation financiers do not affect statutory or common-law privilege.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

HB 161 by Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) and SB 544 by Senator Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) revise the composition of judicial nominating commissions. 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. The bills also provide that no more than five members of each commission may be of the same political party. In addition, the legislation requires The Florida Bar and the Governor’s office to release demographic data on all applicants and JNC members, including ethnicity, race, disabilities, veteran status, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Assistant State Attorney & Assistant Public Defender Student Loan Repayment Program

HB 147 by Rep. Mike Gottlieb (D-Davie) and SB 1472 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) establish a student loan repayment program within the Florida Department of Education for assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders. The program would provide student loan payments of up to $5,000 to assistant prosecutors and public defenders who have been in their position under 10 years and earn less than $65,000.

Florida Retirement System

On February 4, the agenda of the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee featured a presentation by Amy Baker, Coordinator of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, on the FRS pension plan and its financial condition. As of July 1, 2020, the plan is funded at a level of 82%, with an unfunded liability of approximately $36 billion (up from $15.4 billion in 2009). Due to changes in the financial markets following the Great Recession, investment return assumptions have been gradually reduced from 7.75% in 2013 to the present level of 7.0%. According to Ms. Baker, further downward adjustment to investment return assumptions is probably on the horizon, to something more along the lines of 6.77%. The plan has slightly over 1 million current participants. Benefit payments and expenses currently exceed contributions ($11.5 billion vs. $4.16 billion).

SB 84 sponsored by Chairman Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) was also heard by the committee. The bill closes the FRS pension plan to all those commencing eligible public employment on or after July 1, 2022. These new employees would instead become compulsory members of the FRS Investment Plan (the state’s “defined contribution” plan), and they could not join the FRS pension plan under any circumstances.

Senator Rodrigues announced that the state’s actuary, the Milliman firm, is in the process of studying SB 84 and a variety of other options for possible changes to the FRS pension plan. This study, which is expected to be released in the next few days, will guide future amendments to the legislation. Among the models Milliman will study is the effect of keeping the FRS pension plan open to “special risk” employees in public safety roles, like law enforcement and firefighters.

On February 4, SB 84 passed the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee by a partisan vote of 4-2. The bill is now in the Appropriations Committee, its final stop.

Court Clerks Package

SB 838 by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and HB 903 by Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) clarify the responsibility of an individual released from incarceration regarding enrolling in a payment plan for any outstanding court obligations, modify the duties of the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation with respect to the funding of the clerks’ offices, and require the corporation to establish and manage a contingency reserve within the Clerks of the Court Trust Fund. This reserve amount should not exceed 16 percent of the total budget authority for the clerks of court during the current county fiscal year and carried forward at the end of the fiscal year. These reserve funds also include any funds appropriated by the legislature. The legislation also requires the clerks to develop a uniform payment plan form and requires that orders and notifications for traffic citations and suspensions must include information regarding the payment plan.

On March 9, SB 838 is scheduled to be heard in the Judiciary Committee.