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Senate leaders arm twisting to help Dean Cannon's court jihad

Senate leaders are working hard to rally the votes for a court reform bill today that is getting heavy pushback from several Republican senators.

The Senate needs 24 of the 40 senators to pass the bill and the fate of a budget deal is hinged on its passage. Although there are 28 Republicans in the Senate, several have been unwilling to embrace the top priority bill of House Speaker Dean Cannon which is aggressively opposed by the Florida Bar.

Throughout the day, Senate leaders have been button-holing their Republican colleagues on the floor of the Senate. They have persuaded some members who have previously opposed the bill to sign on by agreeing to withdraw an anti-union bill that would have banned unions from using payroll deduction to collect their dues.

 “I’m with leadership,’’ said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach. “The budget is the most important thing we do. We need to get it done.”

 “They don’t have the votes to take the bill up,’’ said Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, an opponent of the bill.

 “The Legislature has enough to worry about in getting our budget together, in getting people back to work and I don’t think we came in here with the idea that we have to do massive reform of the court system,’’ she said. “There doesn’t appear to be any problem, the case load has been reduced and here we are meddling in the business of the Supreme Court when nobody from the court system has come nad asked use to do that. So there’s no problem. It’s a pretty expensive solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

 Former Fort Lauderdale state Sen. Walter “Skip” Campbell, who came the Tallahassee to lobby against the bill, said he believes Republicans are pursuing the bill not because they believe it’s a pressing need for Florida but because they want to load the 2012 ballot with issues that will force lawyers to spend money to try to defeat it.

“The reason why they are putting all these constitutional amendments on the ballot is so that money will be spent and diverted from candidates to issues,’’ he said.