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Senate ready to join Cannon in overhauling Supreme Court; do budget talks start now?

Monday, April 25th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Sen. J.D. Alexander disappeared for a while Monday afternoon from the budget committee he chairs — and returned with an amendment that effectively would bring the Senate in line with House Speaker Dean Cannon’s push for an overhaul of the Florida Supreme Court.

“There’s clear concern, particuarly from our friends in the House that this is needed now,” said Alexander, R-Lake Wales.

Alexander earlier talked about his frustration in dealing with House leaders in trying to craft a state spending plan. Alexander said he hadn’t spoken with his House counterpart, Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid, since last Thursday and said budget negotiations may be threatened by his uneasy relationship with Cannon in past wheeling-and-dealing.

But the Supreme Court proposal clearly appears linked to getting budget talks started. Alexander proposed tacking it onto ballot measure affecting Supreme Court rulemaking.

 Similar to a measure already approved by the House, Alexander’s ’idea’ would add three members to the Supreme Court and split it into two divisions — one civil, one for criminal cases. At least 60 percent of voters would have to approve the proposed constitutional amendment for it to become law. 

The state Senate also would gain authority to confirm the governor’s appointments to the court. The Legislature 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.

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