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House votes 117-0 to approve juvenile detention cost sharing bill

A bill intended to end the fight over juvenile detention costs is headed to the governor.

The Florida House voted 117-0 to approve the measure (SB 1322). The approval came just days after the Senate voted 38-0 to approve the bill.

The proposal requires counties that aren’t considered fiscally constrained, usually more affluent, urban areas, to pay $42.5 million for all detention costs in fiscal 2016-17. The state would pay the remaining costs.

In the years that follow, the state would spit detention costs 50-50.

The state would continue to cover the costs for detention facilities in fiscally constrained counties, usually poorer or rural areas. The state would also cover the cost of detaining juveniles who are out of state.

In 2004, state lawmakers approved a law that required counties to pay for a portion of juvenile detention costs. Over the years, counties sued the state over over-billing of up to $140 million for juvenile detention costs.

Sen. Jack Latvala, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said counties that were suing the state agreed to drop their cases.

“The state and counties came together to finally end a billing system that resulted in litigation and hundreds of millions of tax dollars in dispute,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “Like every good compromise both sides had to give, but the most important thing is the taxpayer came out the real winner.”

The Florida Association of Counties supported the proposal. Barbara Sharief, Broward County’s vice mayor and president of the Florida Association of Counties, said resolving the dispute has been a “priority of FAC for more than seven years.”

“This is a compromise and today legislators and commissioners finally put aside their long-held beliefs that they were in the right in order to make it right and for that we should all stand up and applaud,” she said in a statement. “Ten years later, the state and counties have put aside their litigation and ended the inherently flawed juvenile detention billing system. Today, the partnership between state and counties was restored for the betterment of every Floridian.”

The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for his approval or veto.

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