Clerks’ funding bill crosses the finish line and is off to the governor

Clerks’ funding bill crosses the finish line and is off to the governor

Rep. Adam Botana

The Legislature has signed off on a bill that would redirect $28.8 million in fines and fees from state coffers to the daily operations of Florida’s court clerks.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 40-0 to approve HB 1077 by Rep. Adam Botana, R-Bonita Springs. Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, sponsored the companion, SB 1470.

Sen. Travis Hutson

Sen. Travis Hutson

“This is the clerks’ bill that utilizes their funding for various court-related functions, including improving court-related technology, [and] gives them a lot more funding flexibility,” Hutson said.

Among other things, the proposed legislation updates the list of court-related functions that clerks may fund from filing fees, service charges, court costs, and fines.

Another provision would authorize the Miami-Dade clerk to conduct a driver license reinstatement pilot program.

The measure is part of a multi-year effort to stabilize funding for court clerks, primarily by redirecting court-related revenues that stream into the state’s general revenue fund.

The legislation initially proposed redirecting as much as $39 million, in part to make up for a “glitch” in last year’s bill that resulted in the clerks receiving only a fraction of the $24 lawmakers intended. House and Senate leaders ultimately agreed this year to redirect $28.8 million.

Polk County Clerk of Court Stacy Butterfield

Stacy Butterfield

Polk County Clerk Stacy Butterfield, legislative chair for the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers, said she was grateful lawmakers agreed to redirect more revenue.

But she warned more will be needed to make up for years of underfunding. The clerks say that over the past decade, their budgets have increased just 1.3%.

“We are certainly very appreciative of the Legislature’s efforts to help deal with our budget challenges, and they are significant budget challenges,” she said.

The bill now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has the option of signing it, vetoing it, or allowing it to become law without his signature.

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