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The Florida House has passed a sweeping overhaul of the state’s courts system. House members on Friday passed the main legislation (HJR 7111) by a party-line vote of 79-38 and approved its implementing bill (HB 7199) by 78-37. Related bills also passed easily. The legislation now goes to the Senate. It would mainly expand the Florida Supreme Court from seven to 10 members and splits them evenly into divisions for criminal and civil appeals. The overhaul’s Republican backers say the changes will allow for judicial specialization to move cases faster and will promote transparency in the selection of judges and justices. Democrats continue to call the plan court-packing and an attack on the judiciary’s independence. But the fate of the Supreme Court bill became fuzzy after an amendment to bring the Senate bill in line with House Speaker Dean Cannon’s sweeping plan was withdrawn Friday without explanation. State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, asked a fellow member on the Senate Rules Committee to sponsor the broader amendment, but it was yanked during the committee meeting. The withdrawal means there is currently no Senate companion to Cannon’s court package. The underlying bill, requiring Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices, passed.

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