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Supreme Court Asked To Block 6 Constitutional Amendments That Combine Multiple Issues

| August 14, 2018

supreme court of florida

Time for checks on unbalanced amendments. (Steven Martin)

Arguing that Floridians shouldn’t be asked to vote on ballot measures that patch together unrelated issues, a legal challenge filed Tuesday at the state Supreme Court seeks to scuttle six proposed constitutional amendments.


The plaintiffs, including former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead, take aim at proposed amendments that the Florida Constitution Revision Commission placed on the November ballot. While individual amendments also face separate lawsuits, the petition filed at the Supreme Court targets six of the eight measures approved this spring by the commission.

The case centers on decisions by the commission to lump together multiple issues into single ballot proposals. For example, one of the measures, known as Amendment 9, asks voters to approve a ban on offshore oil drilling and a ban on vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces.

The petition contends, in part, that combining disparate issues in single ballot proposals violates First Amendment rights of voters and is “logrolling” of issues that should be considered separately. It raised the specter of voters having different views of issues in the same ballot proposal — for instance, someone could support a ban on oil drilling but oppose the vaping ban.

“This is logrolling and a form of issue gerrymandering that violates the First Amendment right of the voter to vote for or against specific independent and unrelated proposals to amend the Constitution without paying the price of supporting a measure the voter opposes or opposing a measure the voter supports,” the petition said. “This (Supreme) Court has acknowledged that the right to vote is a fundamental right that may not be abridged in the absence of a compelling and narrowly drawn state interest.”

The 37-member Constitution Revision Commission meets every 20 years and has unique power to place proposed constitutional amendments directly on the ballot. Tuesday’s legal challenge names as a defendant Secretary of State Ken Detzner, whose office oversees elections.

A spokesman for Attorney General Pam Bondi, who served on the commission, declined comment on the legal challenge.

“As this litigation is ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment at this time,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in an email.

The Supreme Court gave the state until 5 p.m. Monday to reply to the petition.

Along with the ballot measure about oil drilling and vaping, the challenge targets:

— A proposal that includes expanding the rights of crime victims and raising the mandatory retirement age of judges.

— A proposal dealing governance of the state-college system and death benefits for survivors of first responders and military members.

— A proposal that would impose term limits on school-board members and require increased “civic literacy” education.

— A proposal that includes changing the start dates of legislative sessions and requiring charter county governments to have elected constitutional officers.

— A proposal that includes removing constitutional language that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property and revising language to make clear that the repeal of criminal statutes does not affect the prosecution of crimes committed before the repeal.

The issue of combining multiple issues into single ballot proposals drew controversy during the Constitution Revision Commission’s deliberations.

“By bundling different proposals together, what we have done is undermine the work that we have undertaken to make sure that each one of the ballot summaries is clear and fairly informs the voters,” commission member Roberto Martinez said during a debate in April.

But member Brecht Heuchan defended the commission’s approach, saying during the debate he rejected “the notion that somehow these people are not capable of understanding basic related proposals.”

“Voters are very discerning when they go through their ballots,” Heuchan said. “They show up. They do their job, and they regularly come to conclusions that are accepted by all.”

Barring successful legal challenges, Floridians are slated to vote on 13 proposed constitutional amendments in November. The eight approved by the Constitution Revision Commission joined five others placed on the ballot by the Legislature and through petition drives.

— News Service of Florida

 

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6 Responses for “Supreme Court Asked To Block 6 Constitutional Amendments That Combine Multiple Issues”

  1. coyote says:

    The fact that the Constitutional Revision Committee was mixing ‘apples and oranges’ on their proposed amendments was obvious from the day the proposed amendments were made public. Why has it taken so long ( and so much closer to the election dates) to try to get them removed?

  2. MarkingTheDays says:

    I’m glad to see this action. These amendments are confusing at best.

  3. A Concerned Observer says:

    These are just more of the shenanigans politicians have been pulling for years. It isn’t new; it isn’t limited to one party over another. It is politics at its worst; self-centered shady dealings to get whatever is in the politicos own interest at the moment by tying a bill or proposal they want to something is more likely to pass a vote. Our politicians are wolves and the voters are (blind, deaf and dumb) sheep. I’m afraid that until the sheep evolve into wiser, more savvy voters we will be faced with the fact we are but food for those higher up the food chain.

    We need term limits. But guess who must get that passed? You guessed it, the wolves. The longer the wolves remain in power, the more corrupt and self-serving they become. I’m afraid there is no altruism in our political leaders. Actually, as bad as ours are, at least have not (yet) degraded to Putin, Assad, Papa Doc and the rest of the despots other countries have placed in power, but give it time…

  4. Pogo says:

    @Cynical pricks at work presents

    “…For example, one of the measures, known as Amendment 9, asks voters to approve a ban on offshore oil drilling and a ban on vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces…”

    A two for one deal: crooked ricky and charlie koch don’t vape – nobody allowed within a mile them does – and they could care less. But, they are counting on poorly educated, poorly paid working poor people who smoke cigarettes, vape, and vote for trump to vote against Amendment 9. The poor loose twice: Their Republican bosses ban vaping, AND prevent the ban on offshore oil drilling, and get to blame the lame for both – while actually wanting both.

    Where do you think they got all that money – doing good?

  5. Outsider says:

    This is a load of crap. If someone wants to ban off shore drilling they also have vote to ban vaping at work? How are these “related issues?”

  6. Anon says:

    “— A proposal that includes removing constitutional language that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property and revising language to make clear that the repeal of criminal statutes does not affect the prosecution of crimes committed before the repeal.”

    Wow, so all those Chinese, Russian, India, etc. nationals who own businesses and homes throughout our country would be forced to give them up, eh? That might affect Palm Coast disapropriately, ya think? There are plenty of non-citizens living in this county, much less throughout Florida this would affect.
    The repeal of criminal statutes for using marijuana (that’s what all that is about) should include affecting the prosecution of ‘crimes’ (charged with marijuana usage/possession) committed before the repeal.

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