House Ok’s high court overhaul for ballotby John Kennedy | April 15th, 2011
Less than a year after the Florida Supreme Court killed three proposed ballot measures pushed by the Republican-ruled Legislature, the state House voted 79-38 along party lines for a measure completely overhauling the seven-member panel.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said the move is designed to improve the court’s efficiency. Democrats weren’t so sure.
“No one party should be in control of all levels of government,” said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek. “This is an attempt by leadership to not only command the governor’s office, the House and the Seante — but also the judiciary.”
The legislation (CS/HJR 7111) is a proposed constitutional amendment going before voters next year. If 60 percent approve, the Supreme Court would add three members be split into two divisions — one civil, one for criminal cases.
The state Senate also would gain authority to confirm the governor’s appointments to the court. The Legislature also would have more power to repeal court rules, while the Supreme Court would gain a guaranteed level of state funding — topping what it historically has drawn.
Democrats said Republicans are court-packing — seeking a friendly panel that may play a key role in reviewing legislative redistricting next year.
But GOP leaders disputed that Friday, saying, instead, they are looking at modernizing the high court and improving justices’ ability to deal with death penalty cases.
Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-New Port Richey, said he’s tired of hearing Democrats accusing ruling Republicans of devious plans and “sticking it” to various interest groups.
“Today, I am voting for this bill, to stick it to every Death Row inmate,” Corcoran said.
A Senate version of the proposal is still awaiting a full chamber vote.