SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Three more proposed constitutional amendments are going before the Florida Supreme Court after a Leon County circuit judge ruled last week they should be blocked from the November ballot.
On Tuesday, the 1st District Court of Appeal sent the case to the Supreme Court, bypassing the usual steps in the appellate process. With ballots starting to go out to voters this month, the appeals court said that "the issues pending in this case are of great public importance requiring immediate resolution by the Supreme Court of Florida."
The three proposed amendments, numbers 7, 9, and 11, were approved this spring by the state Constitution Revision Commission, but Attorney General Pam Bondi argued they were improperly bundled - and the Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers agreed, finding they would violate the First Amendment rights of voters, who could have conflicting views of issues in single ballot proposals.
Amendment 7 deals with the governance of the state-college system and death benefits for survivors of first responders and military members; Amendment 9 would prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling and ban vaping in the workplace; and Amendment 11 would remove constitutional language that prohibits "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning property and would revise language to make clear the repeal of criminal statutes does not affect the prosecution of crimes committed before the repeal.
Four other proposed amendments previously appeared before the Florida Supreme Court. Three were approved for November, including amendments 6, 10, and 13, while Amendment 8 was struck down.
All of the amendments going through the court system were proposed by the CRC, which meets every 20 years and has unique authority to place proposals directly on the ballot. To be added to the state constitution, voters must approve each with a majority of 60 percent of the vote.
Below is a breakdown of each of the proposed amendments created by the CRC, as described by the Florida Division of Elections:
- #6 on the ballot: Revision 1: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges
- Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.
- #7 on the ballot: Revision 2: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities
- Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.
- #8 the ballot (stuck down by the Florida Supreme Court): Revision 3: School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools
- Creates a term limit of eight consecutive years for school board members and requires the legislature to provide for the promotion of civic literacy in public schools. Currently, district school boards have a constitutional duty to operate, control, and supervise all public schools. The amendment maintains a school board’s duties to public schools it establishes, but permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board.
- #9 on the ballot: Revision 4: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
- Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor-generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.
- #10 on the ballot: Revision 5: State and Local Government Structure and Operation
- Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even- numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.
- #11 on the ballot: Revision 6: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes
- Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.
- #12 on the ballot: Revision 7: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers
- Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.
- #13 on the ballot: Revision 8: Ends Dog Racing
- Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.
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