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Governor’s proposed budget includes ample court funding

Senior Editor Top Stories

Florida courts

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed $99.7 billion “Freedom First Budget,” flush with billions in federal dollars and bolstered by a rebounding tourism industry, includes a handful of court spending priorities.

“Florida is clicking in on all cylinders when it comes to the economy,” DeSantis said during a morning news conference last week in Tallahassee. “This is a really strong picture of a state that’s performing very, very well.”

A Harvard-trained lawyer and former Navy JAG officer, DeSantis wants the state court system to share some of the good fortune.

His budget proposal recommends spending slightly more than $10 million for year two of the court system’s “Pandemic Recovery Plan.”

The total matches the court system request and includes $7.5 million for temporary general magistrates, program specialists and staff attorneys, $2.1 million for senior judge days, and $459,208 for mediation services.

The one-time, or non-recurring spending would “provide funds for temporary adjudicatory and case support services necessary to respond to the increased workload caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Office of State Courts Administrator.

The budget proposal, however, does  not include a request for $21.7 million to give trial court judges a 10% pay increase.

The governor is proposing $100,404 for a full-time position support for problem-solving courts. The full-time position would be responsible for data collection, auditing, and analysis of participant data for all state supported problem-solving courts, according to OSCA.

And in a budget proposal that the Supreme Court justices considered a high priority, the governor is recommending $591,965 for a “Supreme Court Fellows Program.”

The funding would “enable the court to offer qualified law students a longer-lasting, more extensive intern experience,” according to OSCA.

When they convene their next 60-day session on January 11, House and Senate leaders will use the governor’s spending proposal as a blueprint to craft competing budget proposals.

The spending plan lawmakers ultimately approve usually differs, sometimes significantly, from the governor’s spending proposal.

But if lawmakers approve the governor’s court spending recommendations, the spending items are unlikely to fall victim to his line-item veto authority.

(Editor’s Note: This story originally said the governor’s proposed budget included money for pay raises for trial court judges. It does not and the story has been updated to correct the error.)

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