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February 23, 2020
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|NEWS AND KEY LEGISLATIVE ISSUES
|Supreme Court Signs Off-On Amendment Proposal
Florida voters will decide in November whether to make it harder to amend the state Constitution. The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously approved a ballot measure that would require future constitutional amendments to be approved by voters twice, instead of once, to take effect.
The political committee Keep Our Constitution Clean received nearly $9 million in contributions during the past year as it collected and submitted enough petition signatures to get the measure on the November ballot. But it still needed a sign-off from the Supreme Court, which looks at issues such as whether ballot wording would be misleading and whether proposed amendments address single subjects.
House Passes Ballot Measure Limiting School Board Terms
On Thursday, the House voted up (mostly along party lines) a proposal seeking to limit elected school board members in Florida to eight consecutive years.If approved by both the House and Senate, the referendum would appear on the November ballot and would need to be approved by at least 60 percent of voters.
Proponents argue that the proposal would bring school boards in line with most statewide elected officials, including the governor and members of the state Legislature — all of whom face term limits.
The LWVFL has been actively engaged in opposition to these bills.
Voting Systems Bills Move
HB 1005 by Rep. Byrd, R-Jacksonville Beach passed its final committee stop unanimously. The bill is now ready for the floor.SB 1312 by Sen. Montford, D-Tallahassee is still awaiting a hearing at its final stop. The bills seek to give county canvassing boards and supervisors of elections the option to use State certified, digital-imaging, automated tabulating equipment that is not part of the county’s voting system to conduct both machine and manual recounts.
The LWVFL is neutral on this bill.
Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Ex-Felons Voting
A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that a Florida law prohibiting ex-felons who cannot pay certain legal fines from voting is unconstitutional, which could yield significant consequences for the third most populous state in the union and major swing state.
In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s finding that Florida’s SB 7066 violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The panel also upheld that court’s preliminary injunction barring enforcement for the plaintiffs.Governor DeSantis intends to appeal the decision to the full circuit.The case stems from a state constitutional amendment approved by Florida’s voters in 2018 that restored voting rights to approximately 1.4 million felons who completed the terms of their sentences.
Subsequently, the GOP controlled legislature passed an implementing bill requiring felons to pay all of their legal financial obligations, such as court fines and fees, before they qualified to vote.
LWVFL’s President, Patricia Brigham, commended the court’s ruling by saying: “Florida voters were clear when more than 64% of them voted for Amendment 4 and this is an absolute win for returning citizens and the will of our state’s voters – – – We’ve stood strong in our belief that a citizen’s bank account should never be what determines whether they can participate in our democracy.”
E-Verify Bill Moves in Senate
Sen. Lee, R-Thonotosassa, is pushing to require all public and private employers in the state to use E-Verify. As a reluctant compromise he revised his SB 664 to allow public and private employers to use a system that is “substantially equivalent” to E-Verify to be in compliance with the proposed law.
The bill narrowly passed its second committee stop, despite the concession made by way of amendment by Senator Lee. The House companion has yet to move, though Speaker Oliva has intimated he may Fastrack the House proposal this coming week (Week 7).
House Poised for Full Vote on Ballot Initiative Legislation
Last week, a joint resolution (PCB JDC 20-07) cleared the Judiciary committee before headed to the floor. The legislation specifically calls to “require the sponsor of a citizen initiative, to place the initiative on the ballot, to gather sufficient petition signatures to meet the 8-percent threshold in all 27 of Florida’s congressional districts, rather than only half of the districts.”
The joint resolution would be considered by the electorate at the next general election. If adopted at the 2020 general election, the resolution would take effect January 5, 2021.Current rules require gatherers to obtain signatures from a total number of voters equaling 8% of those who voted in the most recent presidential election. Further, they would have to meet 8% in at least half of Florida’s congressional districts.
The proposed change would force petition gatherers to focus efforts in areas they might have otherwise put less emphasis on.Additionally, another citizen initiative led bill, HB 7037, cleared its final stop before headed to the floor – now poised for a full vote this week.
Representative Grant’s legislation, originally proposed increasing that to 50% in a quarter of the state’s congressional districts, but a strike-all ultimately changed that to all districts, conforming with the committee bill and a Senate committee bill germane to the same topic.The strike-all also called for analyses of proposed amendments from House and Senate leadership.
Senator Hutson’s companion version, SB 1794, is slated to be heard this week at its final stop, Rules. The bill proposes 33% to trigger review, with signatures from 2/3 of Congressional districts in the current version.The Judiciary Committee is also slated to hear SPB 7062, which like the House committee bill approved last Tuesday afternoon, would call for a Constitutional amendment that would let voters decide whether or not all districts should be in play for what are increasingly challenging petition drives.
The LWVFL have been testifying in opposition to a variety of issues and concerns with these bills.