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Crime bill cut down to budget size

Senators slashed their own juvenile crime package Monday after it became obvious that their rhetoric had gotten bigger than the state's bank account.

A select committee of senators had drawn up an ambitious proposal that would have doubled the $250-million juvenile justice budget.

But when the rhetoric met reality Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee whittled about $100-million from the plan.

Among the ideas that got cut:

Requiring that students stay in school until they're 18. Senators said they liked the idea, but were troubled by a $70-million price tag.

The committee passed an amendment by Sen. James Hargrett, D-Tampa, that would require parental permission before children 16 to 18 could drop out.

Increasing the time judges could lock up juveniles in detention centers from 21 to 35 days. It would have cost $37-million.

Requiring at least eight months of "aftercare" for juvenile rehabilitation programs. The plan that passed Monday would save $3.2-million by requiring a minimum of four months of aftercare.

Also, the number of new boot camps got cut from an estimated 15 to five or six.

Despite the cuts, senators said that they were proud of the package and that increasing funding for crime-fighting programs by $150-million wasn't bad.

They also added some programs Monday.

The committee approved an amendment by Sen. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, to allow the state to file adult charges against juveniles who have been convicted of three felonies and have served in residential rehabilitation programs for each of those offenses. The cost of the change was not clear Monday.

And Sen. Malcolm Beard, R-Seffner, won approval for including a curfew for juveniles in the bill. Local communities could decide whether to adopt the curfew. But if local governments adopt a model curfew law prepared by Attorney General Bob Butterworth's office, Butterworth said he would defend court challenges to the law.

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