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Boot camp funding redirected

Today is Day 51 of the 60-day session of the Florida Legislature.

By Times staff writer, Associated Press
Published April 26, 2006

Declaring "the beginning of a new day" for Florida's juvenile justice system, House and Senate leaders on Tuesday eliminated funding for boot camps and shifted the money to less confrontational programs.

The budget plan, which could be cemented as early as this morning, is part of the Martin Lee Anderson Act, a reference to the 14-year-old who died in January after being roughed up by guards at the Bay County boot camp.

Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, who oversees the Senate's criminal justice budget committee, initially wanted to continue boot camp funding while an in-depth study of their effectiveness is done. But he later came around to the House position, which was backed by Gov. Jeb Bush.

Tuesday's deal calls for $10.5-million for a less confrontational model called the Sheriff's Training and Respect program, or STAR. It is modeled after the Martin County boot camp, which places more emphasis on education, mentoring and transitional support than the other programs in Pinellas, Polk and Manatee counties. Martin County's program has had one of the lowest recidivism rates of all state programs for juveniles.

"Today is the beginning of a new day in the sense of juvenile boot camps in Florida," said Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua. "They will not exist."

Time an enemy of gun rights bill

A bill that would ensure people's right to keep a gun in their car while parked at their workplace passed a key Senate committee. But with another committee stop left in the Senate and two in House, time is running out.

"It's technically dead," said Mark Wilson, executive director of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which calls the bill a gross infringement on private property rights.

Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said she is optimistic the bill will proceed.

An amendment introduced Tuesday by Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, would have changed language stating a business could prohibit guns if "reasonably necessary." Aronberg said that was vague and could lead to litigation. The amendment, which failed on a tie vote of the Commerce and Consumer Services Committee, would have given more discretion to businesses.

Hammer said it would have "gutted" the bill.


House defies court on vouchers

The House passed a Republican-proposed state constitutional amendment that would prohibit courts from relying on a legal doctrine the Florida Supreme Court used to strike down a school voucher program. But a Senate leader said its prospects are nil there.

The program let students from failing public schools attend private schools at public expense. But in January the high court said it violated a state constitutional provision that requires a uniform system of free public schools. The justices cited a doctrine that holds if a law specifies one way of doing things, that excludes all other ways.

The sponsor of the proposed amendment (HJR 7143), Rep. David Simmons, R-Longwood, argued that the court majority misapplied the doctrine.

The amendment would not automatically restore the program. It would come into play only if the program is re-enacted and again challenged.

It passed the House in a nearly party-line vote, 76-36, but two Republicans, Reps. Frank Farkas of St. Petersburg and Nancy Detert of Venice, voted against it. Farkas said he disagreed with the Supreme Court decision, but "you fix it with law, not by amending the Constitution."

The Senate has no plans to consider the bill in the session's final eight days, said Sen. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Other proposed amendments have been introduced in both chambers to allow for vouchers regardless of the Constitution's strictures.

"Antimurder' bill passes House

A bill that would force judges to keep violent criminals in jail if they are accused of violating probation unanimously passed the House with no debate.

The measure (HB 25), inspired by several recent murders allegedly committed by probation violators, is the top legislative priority for Attorney General Charlie Crist, a candidate for governor, who has called the it the "antimurder" act. A similar Senate measure (SB 2622) was moved ahead Tuesday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

The legislation covers defendants accused of violating probation for prior offenses including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, sexual battery, robbery, burglary, lewd or lascivious battery and computer pornography.


[Last modified April 26, 2006, 01:21:08]

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