Next year, the state of Florida will take over responsibility for the costs of running courts around the state; nearly half of that cost now is paid by counties. St. Petersburg Times columnist Howard Troxler reports that the shift, prompted by a 1998 constitutional amendment, could endanger court programs. Already, both the Senate and House’s versions of next year’s court budget contain less money than this year, despite higher caseloads. “There’s a definite chance the drug courts would have to be eliminated,” said Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer, the head of a state trial-court budget commission. The Senate would keep drug courts as a state-funded program, the House keeps them as a local option.
One of the first drug courts was established in Florida’s Dade County, whose chief prosecutor, Janet Reno, popularized them during her term as U.S. Attorney General in the 1990s.