The Florida Legislature gaveled its annual 60-day regular session to order this past Tuesday and hit the ground running. There were several bills debated and passed in committee related to criminal justice policy. In addition, the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice released his preliminary list of proposed reductions to the recurring base budget.
Senate base budget reductions
Chair Aaron Bean released his initial list of recommended base budget reductions totaling $46 million of General Revenue. In large part, the Senate relied upon relatively painless technical adjustments to the budget such as shifting costs from General Revenue to available trust funds. Trust fund increases offset these reductions by $19.4 million and effectively hold the budgets for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, state attorneys, and public defenders harmless.
The largest single reduction on the list is a reduction of $18.3 million to reflect the anticipated decrease of 1,575 inmates in the inmate population. While this is a technical adjustment and only reflects the variable costs associated with each inmate (e.g., dorm security, healthcare, etc.), the department will no doubt make a strong argument that it should be allowed to retain these funds to shore up longstanding deficits.
There were only two substantive program reductions on the list: $3.2 million reduction to the Juvenile Redirections program within the Department of Juvenile Justice and a $1 million reduction to the Commission on Offender Review resulting from reassigning clemency functions to the Executive Office of the Governor and parole functions to the Department of Corrections.
The list also includes adjustments to debt service in the Department of Corrections to reflect current obligations, a $1 million reduction to the State Courts based on unfilled positions and elimination of a member project in the 18th Circuit State Attorney’s Office.
Featured bill - Juvenile Civil Citation
SB 196 by Sen. Anitere Flores and its companion, HB 205 by Rep. Ahern, both passed out of committee this week. Going into the week, the two bills were substantially similar with both requiring officers to issue civil citations in lieu of arrest for juveniles that admit to certain misdemeanor offenses. The bills came out of committee, however, bearing little resemblance to one another. The House took up a Proposed Committee Substitute that essentially deals with expedited expungement of juvenile arrest records where the youth completed a diversion program. Provisions related to juvenile civil citations are no longer a part of the bill.
Since the Senate version of the bill is a key piece of the Senate president’s stated priority to “decriminalize adolescence,” the issue is likely to be used as a bargaining chip in upcoming House-Senate negotiations. The Senate bill has generally enjoyed support from youth advocates but has generated concerns among law enforcement representatives because it makes civil citations mandatory for certain enumerated first-time misdemeanor offenses rather than discretionary on the part of the officer.
SB 118 by Sen. Steube prohibiting websites from charging a fee to remove mugshot and arrest information passed the Committee on Criminal Justice and is now in Appropriations.
SB 279 by Sen. Thurston, which would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to restore civil rights to certain convicted felons, passed the Criminal Justice Committee and is now in Judiciary.
SB 128 by Sen. Bradley revises the “Stand Your Ground” law to place the burden of proof on the state in such cases was read a second time on the floor and rolled over to 3rd reading for final passage. The House companion (HB 245) is still in committee.
SB 270 by Sen. Thurston, which is a proposed amendment to the constitution to restore civil rights to certain convicted felons, passed out of the Senate Criminal Justice committee and is now in Judiciary. The House companion (HB 53) has yet to be heard in committee.
SB 280 by Sen. Bracy, which requires unanimous jury recommendation for the death penalty, passed both House and Senate and was presented to the Governor who has until March 17 to act.
SB 448 by Sen. Brandes, which encourages local jurisdictions to implement adult civil citation programs, was temporarily postponed with an amendment pending by the Criminal Justice Committee. It is scheduled to be considered at the committee’s meeting on March 13. A linked public records exemption bill was also postponed and is up for consideration next week as well. The House companion (HB 367) is still in committee. Interestingly, it’s linked public records exemption bill (HB 369) is scheduled to be taken up by the House Oversight, Transparency and Administration Subcommittee on March 13.
SB 458 by Sen. Brandes establishing a Criminal Justice Reform Task Force is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on March 13. The House companion (HB 387) has yet to be heard in committee.
SB 494 by Sen. Bradley, which eliminates much of the current “clean hands” exception for compensation of people who are wrongfully incarcerated, passed the Senate Judiciary and is now in Appropriations. The House companion (HB 993) has yet to be heard in committee.
SB 1052 by Sen. Simmons, which deals with justifiable use of force in a dwelling, is on the Senate Judiciary committee agenda for March 14.
Juvenile direct file reform
SB 192 by Sen. Powell is currently in the Criminal and Civil Justice Subcommittee. The Criminal Justice Impact Conference, however, scored the bill and found the prison bed impact to be indeterminate as it relates to the overall effect of the bill and to result in 64 less prison beds being needed over the next five years due to provisions related to children under 14 at the time of their offense. The Department of Juvenile Justice also issues its long anticipated updated fiscal impact summary which estimates a fiscal impact of $19 million for the next fiscal year, increasing to $24 million for the year after. There is no House companion, although there is some indication that language may be included in a proposed committee bill. Prospects for this bill appear to be diminishing.
For a complete list of all the bills being tracked by FCAJ, with links to real-time updates posted by their legislative bodies, see the Legislation Tracking section on our home page.