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Justice budget writers closing out differences; House, Senate $3.5 million apart

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Legislative budget writers moved the needle during their second conference meeting Saturday night, narrowing the discrepancies between House and Senate proposals to just $3.5 million dollars, about 0.1 percent of the $4.1 billion proposed criminal and civil justice budget.

This time it was the Senate’s turn to make an offer, and committee Vice Chairman Sen. Joe Negron took the House’s position on a number of priorities and modified its position on several others.

The Senate amended its proposal to mirror the House’s by including $6.48 million for courthouse improvements and $8.5 million for a state courts trust fund, where a shortfall is expected this year. In exchange, however, they asked the House to remove nearly $6.6 million in funding to upgrade the state’s trial court technology infrastructure.

The chambers agreed on $2 million to purchase doses of the anti-opioid treatment Vivitrol, $1 million for a program to support victims of sex trafficking, and $2.3 million to help reduce the backlog of untested sexual assault kits held by the state.

The Senate has allocated $1 million for property acquisition and planning for a new jail in DeSoto County, which was not included in the House’s first offer Saturday morning.

The House Justice Appropriations/Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations will next meet at noon Sunday, according to an announcement by committee Chairman Rep. Larry Metz.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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