Senate passes stripped down Supreme Court revamp bill
(State Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R- Miami, left talks with Senator Ellen Bogdanoff, R- Ft. Lauderdale, right, after the Florida Senate passed a stripped down Supreme Court revamp bill. Bogdanoff introduced an amendment to the bill to make the proposal more palatable to Senators. Scott Keeler, Times)
The Senate handed House Speaker Dean Cannon a partial victory on his plan to overhaul the Florida Supreme Court, voting 28 to 11 on Monday in favor of the proposal but only after stripping out the most controversial measure, which would have expanded the court to 10 justices from seven and created two five-member divisions, one for civil cases and one for criminal. The Senate also removed a provision that would have guaranteed funding for the court equal to 2.25 percent of general revenue every year.
What's left? Senate confirmation of justices, a provision that makes it easier for the legislature to reject new court rules, and providing the House of Representatives with access to investigations of judicial misconduct in advance of impeachment proceedings.
"It's a win. It's absolutely a win," Cannon said after the Senate vote.
Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, introduced an amendment to the bill to make the proposal palatable to Senators.
"It was a bold idea," she said of the court split. "We should never be afraid to debate bold ideas."
But it was clear last week that Senators wouldn't accept that concept, with many questioning why it was necessary. Cannon had said he believed it would make the court more efficient, but Senators said they saw no evidence to back up those claims. Many said they believed it was payback for the court rejecting three Constitutional amendments the Republican-led legislature wanted on the November 2010 ballot.
The resolution, HJR 7111, now goes back to the House, where it was previously approved, for a vote on the Senate changes. It's likely to pass.
The court changes require a Constitutional amendment that will have to be approved by 60 percent of Florida voters.
"Some of the changes we're doing are no different than what the federal courts and federal government does. Confirmation of justices for example," said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge.