House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been a frequent --- and vocal --- critic of the Florida Supreme Court's liberal-leaning majority, which has thwarted the Legislature on issues ranging from worker's compensation insurance to redistricting.
Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, wants to impose term limits on how long appellate judges can serve, and his chamber is pushing legislation that would require the high court to give an annual report to the House and Senate about how long it takes the justices to rule on cases.
But Corcoran practically gushed when speaking about Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, after the court issued a new rule dealing with senior justices.
The unanimously approved rule says no retired justice may be assigned to the Supreme Court, or continue to serve, after seven justices "are available and able to perform the duties of office."
"I think the court did an excellent job of taking the lead and initiative to make the system better," the speaker said when asked about the new rule during a weekly session with reporters.
The issue arose after Gov. Rick Scott appointed Alan Lawson to replace retiring Justice James E.C. Perry, effective Dec. 31. After Lawson joined the bench, Perry continued to weigh in on opinions in cases in which he had heard arguments as part of the panel.
Perry's participation after Lawson joined the bench earned Corcoran's wrath.
But Corcoran had high praise for the court Thursday afternoon.
"People want to say there's tension here, there's tension there. I consider Justice Labarga a friend," Corcoran said when asked about the new rule during a weekly session with reporters.
Corcoran said he's known Justice Charles Canady for decades and also knew Justice Ricky Polston before Polston joined the high court. Corcoran's wife was an intern for Justice Barbara Pariente, Corcoran said.
"I think they all want to do what is in essence best for the judicial system," he said.
He also extolled Labarga, typically part of the court's liberal-leaning majority.
"Whether it's reining in judges working the proper lengths, wearing the proper robes, exhibiting the proper decorum, having an aura of an august body, a body that is hopefully beyond reproach, I think Justice Labarga has been one of the finest Supreme Court justices in moving all branches of the court in that direction," Corcoran said.
Corcoran brushed off the suggestion that senior judges should be able to rule on cases in which they have heard arguments.
"That logic can play itself out with governors. That logic can play out with legislators. That logic can play out with Cabinet members. I'm not a buyer," he said. "I've got news for you. I can assure you that Speaker-D Oliva (future speaker Jose Oliva) is not going to make me the 121st member because I didn't get all my legislation passed. … That's not the way it works."
HOUSE KEEPS POWDER DRY
High-caliber measures that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry firearms on college campuses and openly carry guns in public aren't moving in the House and won't until the Senate shows any sign it will advance the bills.
So far, those controversial proposals (SB 622 and SB 644) backed by gun-rights groups, remain jammed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And as long as they are stuck in the Senate, Rep. Neil Combee, an Auburndale Republican who is a key backer of gun-rights bills, said the House will focus on issues that are moving.
"Obviously, I think there is interest in the House, but without any movement in the Senate, we've decided to spend time on things that we can actually get done," Combee said.
The House did approve a measure (HB 849) on Wednesday, in a 76-35 vote, that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to bring guns to churches and other religious institutions.
Combee noted that a growing number of religious facilities have been setting up their own "security teams" as they have come under "attack across the country in recent years."
But that House-approved measure conflicts with a Senate version (SB 646), which includes rules involving religious facilities that have schools.
Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who has been a roadblock to gun bills in the Judiciary Committee, earlier this week was able to attach language to the religious-carry bill. Flores' amendment would allow people to bring guns to church only during non-school hours.
That, Combee said, isn't something the House may support.
"For some of the mega-churches, that doesn't work very well," Combee said. "They have activities going on quite a bit. Some of those places are like three-ring circuses. So it really would defeat the purpose if we accepted that amendment."
TWEET OF THE WEEK: "Former Rep. Corrine Brown handing out free ice cream in Hemming Park ahead of her 2pm status conference in fed court.” --- Jenna Bourne (@jennaANjax), reporter for CBS47/FOX30 @ActionNewsJax on Wednesday.