Board of Governors gets legislative update April 15, 2004 Senior Editor Regular News Board of Governors gets legislative update Gary Blankenship Senior Editor A proposed constitutional amendment giving the legislature the power to write all court procedural rules will be heard by at least one more Florida House committee, despite an agreement that Florida Bar leaders thought had stopped the bill.In addition, Legislation Committee Chair and Bar President-elect designate Alan Bookman told the Board of Governors earlier this month that it now appears as though the legislature will pass a law banning some lawyer advertising. He also updated the board on getting continued funding for the Civil Legal Assistance Act, on funding for the courts, and on other legislative matters.The board adopted three legislative positions to deal with those various issues.On the procedural rules, Bookman noted that Bar President Miles McGrane believed he had offered a constructive alternatives to the proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Gus Barrerio, R-Miami. McGrane thought that Barrerio liked the alternative, which in place of the amendment would have the Bar give early notice to legislators of any rule amendments and also place some legislators directly on the various rule committees.However, Bar legislative consultants were told that Barreiro would still like the proposed amendment to be heard at the House Judiciary Committee. Bookman said the Bar is ready to testify against the amendment and in favor of the alternative at that committee hearing.He said the bill was tentatively set to go before the committee during the week of April 12-16, after this News went to press.On advertising, Bookman noted that HB 1357, which bans some types of attorney advertising, passed the House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate. At first it appeared the upper chamber would not act on the issue, but he said the Bar has been told a companion bill may be filed there and Bar legislative consultants believe it will pass. (See story, page 1.)On court funding, Bookman said the Bar faces a double-barreled challenge.The first is with the legislative appropriations. The court system asked for an additional $170 million to meet the requirements of 1998’s Revision 7 constitutional amendment. The House has appropriated $137 million and the Senate, $113 million, Bookman said, while a TaxWatch study commissioned by the Bar put the need at $140 million.Board member Sharon Langer told the board that neither the Senate nor especially the House budget has enough to replace the money local legal aid agencies are losing from filing fee surcharges.Bar President Miles McGrane said the second challenge is aside from the state budget: The Bar needs to work with local voluntary bars to persuade county commissions that the court system will need their continued financial participation. He noted Revision 7 still envisioned the counties would provide significant court funding.“Whatever happens [with the state budget], we still have a lot more to go,” McGrane said. “You’ve got to convince the counties this was not expected to be a windfall for them, that they could not wash their hands of the court system.”Other legislative items presented include:• Bookman reported that the House budget has $500,000 for the Civil Legal Assistance Act, while the Senate budget has no money. The Florida Bar Foundation, which administers the program, has asked for $5.5 million, up from the $1.5 million it received last year and $2 million the year before. He also said Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, is looking at filing a bill putting a 0.1 percent surcharge on large court verdicts, with the money earmarked for the act.• A bill increasing criminal penalties for the unlicensed practice of law has passed the Senate unanimously, while a similar bill is progressing in the House. (See story, page 16.)• Legislation creating a “Kids Deserve Justice” speciality license tag, with proceeds going for children’s legal programs administered by The Bar Foundation, has advanced in both houses, and is proving popular with lawmakers, Bookman said.• A bill creating a Sixth District Court of Appeal has cleared the House. (See story, page 1.)The three legislative positions taken by the Bar are:• Support legislation on lawyer advertising that is as restrictive as possible without violating the U.S. Constitution.• Support continued funding for local legal aid agencies at the same level that had been raised by filing fee surcharges in past years.• Support continued funding for local law libraries as had been raised for filing fee surcharges and other sources in past years.