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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pruitt gets a smackdown on court funding



Sen. Ken Pruitt is paying the cost of not being the boss.

Pruitt, the ex-Senate president, this morning saw his bill to revamp clerk of court funding tabled after Sen. Victor Crist offered up two amendments in the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee and then refused to allow an up-or-down vote on what Pruitt deemed the “clean” version.

“When a bill leaves this committee, it has to be 99 percent completed,” Crist said as Pruitt stood at the podium. “It is the job of this committee to work out problems in justice-related bills. I know that generally in other committees it is customary for a member to say, ‘Well go ahead and pass it out and I’ll fix it at the next step.’ This particular committee is the last stop.”

Pruitt's bill essentially requires clerks to submit a budget to the Legislature and redirects fees collected by the clerk of courts to help pay for court operations. Some clerk functions would also be consolidated with the courts. The idea has drawn critics on both sides.

Crist said he serves at the president’s pleasure – that would be President Atwater, not ex-prez Pruitt – and that he had not gotten any word to move it on.

“Until I do,” he added, “I guess at this point we’re going to temporarily postpone the bill.”

Pruitt said he respected the process and said there was no “center point” to be found on the issue and the time for compromise had passed. “I would like for this bill … to be the ultimate product.”

He then asked for a up-or-down vote. But Crist refused. “If it is your desire for the bill to move to the next stop, my suggestion is we temporarily postpone the bill.”

Pruitt left the room hastily, clearly agitated.

More than an hour later, Crist told the audience that the amendments his committee offered were “well thought out” and took the clerk-court struggle in two different ways. Of Pruitt’s version, he said, “I knew the votes weren’t here to pass it in its raw form."

Crist said the amendments would have taken 10 percent from clerks and given it to courts. One would send all clerk money to the state to be reapportioned to the 67 counties, while the other left the current system in place but "tightened up" some of the accounting practices.


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 7:34pm]


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