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Senate Judiciary Committee to take up CRC, courthouse security, and public records measures

Senior Editor Top Stories

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider several measures when it meets September 17, including one that would ask voters to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission.

Sen. Jeff BrandesThe measure, SJR 142, is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. Brandes has called the CRC a “Pandora’s box” that voters should bury.

Created by the 1968 Constitution, the CRC meets every 20 years and has the power to put measures directly on the ballot. Fifteen members are appointed by the governor, the Senate president and House speaker each appoint nine members, the chief justice appoints three, and the attorney general is an automatic member.

When it met in 2018, the CRC proposed nine amendments, but the Supreme Court removed one after ruling that the summary language was misleading. Three others were challenged for containing more than a single subject, but the court voted 4-3 to allow them to remain on the ballot.

Voters approved all eight of the remaining CRC measures, including “Marsy’s Law,” a sweeping criminal justice reform measure designed to promote victim’s rights. Another CRC measure combined an indoor vaping ban with an offshore drilling ban.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 in February to approve an identical ballot measure, also by Brandes.

“It pops up every 20 years, there aren’t really rules as to how it plays out, we never know what’s going to come out of the game next,” Brandes said before the vote. “Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s terrible…. This is a Pandora’s box that turns partisan and turns partisan in a way we may not want it to.”

The Senate voted 35-4 on April 26 to approve the measure, but it died in the House.

Courthouse Security

The Senate Judiciary Committee is also scheduled to take up a measure that would designate sheriffs and their deputies “officers of the court” when providing courthouse security.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, SB 118 is a response to a legal dispute in 2017 between a Southwest Florida sheriff and the local courts over providing security for court facilities that don’t have courtrooms.

The proposed legislation would require sheriffs, county commissions, and respective chief judges to “coordinate” the “development of a comprehensive plan for the provision of security for trail court facilities.”

Rep. Stan McClain, R-Ocala, has filed a House companion, HB 131. It has not been referred to committees.

Public Records

The final item on the committee’s agenda, SB 218, is designed to protect current and former judicial assistants. Sponsored by Sen. Tom Wright, R-Port Orange, the measure would exempt from public records any information that could be used to locate or identify current and former judicial assistants, as well as their spouses and children.

A companion measure has not yet been filed.