Budget conference: House holds to demand for $9M to Bernie McCabe courthouse in St. Petersburg

Bernie McCabe Couthouse
The Senate would rather fund a courthouse expansion in Viera.

Funding for a new Court of Appeal courthouse in St. Petersburg remains a sticking point in budget negotiations.

A House offer presented this afternoon agreed to a number of cuts the Senate sought in the Criminal and Civil Justice budget. But Representatives still want $9 million for the Bernie McCabe Second District Court of Appeal.

That’s a $50 million project former House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced in 2021. Ground broke on the project in mid-December on Mirror Lake Drive a block from St. Petersburg City Hall and the Pinellas County Clerk of Court.

Judges earlier this year lobbied lawmakers in support of $9 million in state funding, which was enough for the House. But the Senate hasn’t included any funding for the courthouse in its budget.

In total, the House has almost $698 million budgeted to help the state court system, while the Senate allots only $686 million. The bulk of that is accounted for in the St. Petersburg courthouse.

There are other differences. The Senate has its own priorities, including expansion of the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Justice Center. The Senate has maintained a $5.5 budget item for that Viera courthouse, while the House has yet to include any money for the facility in its own budget.

But the chambers are gradually coming closer on issues. The latest House offer dumps nearly $1 million that budget negotiators previously set aside for “problem solving courts funding.”

But the lower chamber still wants nearly double the upper chamber’s desired funding for critical due process resources statewide, asking for almost $12.3 million in funding compared to the Senate’s last offer of $6.1 million.

And the House wants to see $2 million budgeted for a new roof at a Polk Court courthouse.

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area. When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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