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Clerk funding bills moves closer to floor action

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Sen. Travis Hutson

Sen. Travis Hutson

Legislation aimed at granting Florida’s court clerks access to an additional $31.2 million that would otherwise flow to the state’s general revenue fund breezed through committee stops in both chambers this week.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice took up SB 1130 April 18. Bill sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican, added a conforming amendment that aligned his measure with the House companion bill.

The amendment redirects specific revenue from the general revenue fund to trust funds used by the clerks, thus reducing the estimated total amount of annual redirect from $34 million to $24 million. Florida’s Court Clerks and Comptrollers says those funds would be retained locally for the clerks’ court-related functions.

Questioning the bill sponsor, Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, Hutson asked the clerks if they were happy with the proposed legislation.

Six of Florida’s county clerks were on hand to support the measure, including FCCC President and Martin Clerk Carolyn Timmann, CCOC Legislative chair and Clay Clerk Tara Green, Volusia Clerk Laura Roth, Columbia Clerk James Swisher, Jr., Madison Clerk Billy Washington, and Putnam Clerk Matt Reynolds.

The overwhelming show of clerk support led Hutson to easily answer the question.

“I would say the clerks are very happy,” Hutson said.

The bill was reported favorably by a 10-0 vote and now heads to its final committee stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

On April 19, the House Judiciary Committee took up the clerk’s companion measure, HB 977, to the same widespread praise.

Sponsor Rep. Adam Botana, R-Bonita Springs, said his measure would help close the funding gap between clerks’ current revenue and anticipated expenditures so they can perform essential court-related functions.

Deltona Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby noted how important the legislation is.

“I want to thank the sponsor for this wonderful bill,” Barnaby said. “I love the clerks of court, and it’s good to see my clerk of court in the audience, Laura Roth. I urge everybody to be up on this bill. It’s very important.”

The House measure is now ready for the floor.

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