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Scott signs measure to end detention cost disputes

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday signed a bill aimed at ending years of legal disputes between the state and counties about juvenile-detention costs.

The bill (SB 1322), sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will lead to a 50-50 split of detention costs between the state and counties.

It also involves a new billing system and an agreement by counties to waive all previous claims against the state.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and counties have long battled about how the agency has carried out a 2004 law that required counties to help pay for "predisposition" costs, or the costs of detaining underage offenders before they are sentenced.

Counties repeatedly filed legal challenges, arguing they were being forced to bear too much of the cost.

Lawmakers moved forward with Latvala's bill after the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled last month in the counties' favor on an issue related to back payments.

The bill will require counties to pay a total of $42.5 million for detention costs during the upcoming 2016-17 fiscal year. The state would pay the rest.

After that, the state and counties would split the costs evenly. Latvala, whose son, Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, carried the bill in the House, has said the affected counties would save roughly $12 million in the first fiscal year.