Republican State Sen. Rob Bradley, chair of the committee that determines criminal justice resources, is poised to tackle various issues in Florida’s criminal justice system in the upcoming legislative session.
For example, Bradley will be spearheading juvenile sentencing reform, as well as Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice budget deficits.
Bradley was a lawyer elected in 2012 to the Senate region covering Alachua, Bradford and Clay counties. He also served as assistant state attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit between 1996 and 1998.
After entering private practice, Bradley later specialized in government law, acting as managing partner of Kopelousos, Bradley & Garrison firm.
Bradley, a fourth-generation Clay County native, also serves as general counsel for Orange Park and Keystone Heights.
Juvenile justice is a complicated issue, Bradley told Margie Menzel in a recent interview for the News Service of Florida, where both sides have “a lot of folks” with valid points of view.
“It is the Legislature’s duty to address the issue,” Bradley said, “so we are going to get it done this year.”
Another principal duty is for lawmakers to “be mindful” of the effects of crime on families, especially notable heinous crimes like murder.
Budget cuts have affected all areas of the state government, Bradley said, but the court system did “relatively well.” Courts were quite unscathed while other agency budgets slashed budgets.
“I’d also point out that last year, we increased funding for the court system by $9.3 million,” he added, “and we significantly increased funding for our state attorneys and public defenders.”
“ So I feel like from the big-picture perspective while we can always do more, the court system has fared relatively well over the last few years in very difficult times.”
Pensions in Florida now spread over 492 plans for police and fire departments, with 61 percent of them underfunded.
“The data tells us that’s a ticking time bomb,” Bradley said, adding that Florida needs to take steps to ensure state employees have sufficient funds to “depend on that retirement.”
“I think the first thing to keep in mind is that the (Florida Retirement System) pension issue and the municipal pension issue are two very different issues,” he said. “The FRS pension issue is obviously a priority of Speaker Weatherford, and it’s certainly a priority of many in the Senate as well.”
All considered, Bradley feels the FRS system is financially sound, but municipal pensions are “not on a good foot financially.”
“That is more of an emergency financial situation than perhaps the long-term discussions that we’re having regarding FRS,” he told Menzel. “So I think it’s important for us all in Tallahassee to keep in mind that the challenges we’re facing on the FRS issue are very different from the challenges that we’re facing in the municipal pension world.”
“And so I hope that this session, we’re able to decouple the two issues and deal with each on their own merits.”