Saturday, November 18, 2017
Politics

Juvenile justice funding snared in state budget dispute

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — For years, county officials say, they've had to shoulder too much of the cost of dealing with young offenders. In recent years, they say, the state has erroneously billed them $140 million for juvenile justice costs, sparking legal action.

Now, with the annual legislative session drawing to a close, the costs are at the center of the latest budget dispute.

Lawmakers have proposed a new funding formula that counties agree would avoid future billing disputes. But only the House proposal, HB 5305, also reimburses counties for previous overpayments through small annual installments.

Counties — especially large urban centers that are bearing the brunt of costs — are hoping the Senate will embrace the House plan during budget negotiations that begin when lawmakers return Monday.

"When the state overbills us over $14 million (over several years), we need to be compensated," said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman.

The funding dispute affects 38 counties that since 2004 have been expected to help pay a portion of the costs of incarcerating youths before they are sentenced. The 29 more rural counties are considered "fiscally constrained" and are exempt from the requirement.

In the past decade, 19 counties have filed legal challenges against the Department of Juvenile Justice over billing issues. They argued that the state arbitrarily shifted up to 75 percent of detention costs to counties in some years.

The House and Senate hope to end that litigation through a new billing formula that requires counties to pay 50 percent of youth detention costs. But the two chambers disagree on whether counties should be credited for the extra money they paid in previous years.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, is chairman of the Senate's criminal justice budget committee. He said his proposal, SB 1532, factored in past overpayments when he came up with the 50-50 formula. "Our percentage split is more generous than perhaps it would be otherwise because we acknowledge that the counties have this argument that they believe they are owed back payments," Bradley said.

If the House and the Senate can't iron out a compromise during budget deliberations, Gov. Rick Scott's billing plan would likely be implemented. It would require counties to cover 57 percent of juvenile detention costs and receive no back payments.

The Florida Association of Counties has labeled it the worst of the three plans. For instance, Hillsborough would owe $4.3 million and Pinellas would owe $3.4 million next year under Scott's plan, significantly more than under either the House or Senate plan.

"It remains to be seen if we're able to resolve this matter in the two weeks that are left in this session," Bradley said.

Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, the ranking Democrat on the House's Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, believes the best solution includes reimbursing counties for overpayment.

"It's been a thorny issue," he said. "Counties have felt for some time that they are right and should have not been overbilled. The Department of Juvenile Justice has dealt with budget constraints and felt that it was right."

Contact Tia Mitchell at (850) 224-7263 or [email protected]

Comments
As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

WASHINGTON — "You can do anything," Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women. Maybe he could, but not everyone can. The man who openly bragged about grabbing women’s private parts — but denied he really did so — w...
Published: 11/17/17
Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Standing on the white marble steps of Alabama’s Capitol, Kayla Moore surrounded herself with two dozen other women Friday to defend husband Roy Moore against accusations of sexual misconduct that are dividing Republicans, and women...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken personally apologized to the woman who has accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour, saying he remembers their encounter differently but is "ashamed that my actions ruined that ...
Published: 11/17/17
Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

An 87-year-old widow from Melbourne, a mysterious direct mail company in tiny Buffalo, Wyo., and a tangled web of political committees all were linked to the onslaught of negative mailers that helped Lawrence McClure win the Republican primary in Pla...
Published: 11/17/17

10,000 more FBI records unsealed from JFK assassination files

DALLAS — Yet again, the National Archives released a trove of records from the Kennedy assassination files on a Friday afternoon, another strange stream of loose ends, dead ends and tangents with little apparent connection to the assassination of the...
Published: 11/17/17
William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

Jose Vazquez, Democratic nominee in the Dec. 19 state House District 58 special election, doesn’t seem like a criminal. He’s 43, divorced with six children, and has worked as a security guard and in auto recycling. He was a high-level political field...
Published: 11/17/17
Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is displaying selective outrage over allegations of sexual harassment against prominent men in politics, as his own tortured past lingers over his response. Trump moved quickly Thursday to condemn accusations again...
Published: 11/17/17
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y. — Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t ...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., faced swift condemnation and bipartisan calls for an ethics investigation Thursday after he was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a broadcaster and model while traveling overseas in 2006.The allegations ag...
Published: 11/16/17
Alabama GOP stands by Roy Moore; Trump declines to urge him to quit Senate race

Alabama GOP stands by Roy Moore; Trump declines to urge him to quit Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Roy Moore won a reprieve in his struggle to survive as a U.S. Senate candidate Thursday when the Alabama Republican Party affirmed it would continue backing him despite allegations that he sexually assaulted teenagers."Judge Moore ...
Published: 11/16/17