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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House won't hear revised, Crist-friendly bill giving Scott more power over JNCs

7

March

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A proposal to give Gov. Rick Scott more power over judicial appointments appeared to break down Wednesday amid a disagreement between the House and Senate. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, above, who sponsored the bill, said Gov. Scott had no intention of terminating appointments made by previous Governor Charlie Crist. [Scott Keeler, Times]

A proposal to give Gov. Rick Scott more power over judicial appointments appeared to break down Wednesday amid a disagreement between the House and Senate over, as Rep. Matt Gaetz put it, "preserving the dead hand of Charlie Crist."

Lawmakers have been attempting to give Scott the power to fire many of the people who nominate judges to serve across the state, saying it would allow for greater accountability. But the Senate modified its bill so that Scott could only fire members of the Judicial Nominating Commission that had been appointed since he took office. The change was to protect appointments made by Crist.

Sponsor Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said Scott had no intention of terminating Crist’s appointments anyway. “Gov. Scott agreed to it without any hesitation," Simmons said.

It's still a no-go in the House,  said Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

"The issue is dead," he said.

The Senate bill -- which passed 24-14 -- also contained a provision permitting retired judges to return more quickly effort to help clear out the state’s backlog of court cases, said sponsor 

A 2009 Florida law prevents state employees from returning to work until six months after their retirement in effort to prevent what’s called “double dipping,” or drawing a pension and paycheck simultaneously.

“If someone retires, they should retire and not come back into the system and game the system and take advantage of a program that was not intended to allow them to double dip,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. Fasano and Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, joined Democrats in opposing the bill.

Simmons disagreed, saying retired judges are only allowed to work 60 days unless they get approval from the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

Many of the state's judges return to the bench after they retire, collecting $350 a day for handling cases while they receive the pensions they earn.

A few years ago a number of the state's judges took advantage of a loophole in the retirement law by getting reelected, "retiring'' for 30 days and returning to collect their full salary plus a pension and deferred compensation benefits.

The double-dipping question wasn’t the sticking point for Democrats, who believe the proposal consolidated too much power in the hands of the governor.

Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan contributed to this report.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 6:08pm]

    

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