The Florida Policy Institute (FPI) has sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis urging him to veto four pieces of legislation that would hinder progress toward shared prosperity in Florida.
The following is a summary of those bills:
First, some background. Back in November, voters approved Amendment 11. One of the provisions in the amendment is to repeal a clause in the state Constitution that bans any changes to a criminal law from being applied retroactively. As pointed out in a recent FPI op-ed, this clause has prevented the state Legislature from making meaningful changes to criminal laws, such as sentencing laws, in ways that would affect those who are already serving overly-long and unjust sentences.
A bill passed by the Legislature, CS/SB 1656, proposes that any changes made to a criminal statute are to be applied moving forward, unless otherwise stated in the amending bill.
This is clearly not what Florida voters approved when they passed Amendment 11.
This legislation includes language that would add unnecessary restrictions to petition gathering in Florida, which would make it much harder for citizen initiatives to reach the ballot. Examples of citizen initiatives include automatic restoration of voting rights for people with felony convictions who completed their sentences and the requirement that certain funds be earmarked for state land acquisition and conservation. These were issues that residents felt strongly about but that legislators weren’t acting on.
HB 5 is actually a bill related to local sales tax, but the petition-related provisions were hurriedly and recklessly tacked on to HB 5 on the last day of session. When provisions are added onto bills at the last minute, it’s typically with the hope that there will be no time for analysis or discussion.
This is another implementing bill — this one for Amendment 4 — and another case of lawmakers meddling with a voter-approved measure. CS/SB 7066 would require that all court fines and fees be paid in full before voting rights are restored.
This bill creates the perfect formula to prevent or delay African-Americans with felony convictions from participating in the electoral process. African-Americans constitute 47 percent of the state’s prison population while making up only 17 percent of the state’s population. Further, they make up a larger share of Florida’s lowest income group (those struggling to get by on less than $18,700/year).
More than 85 environmental, community and good-government groups oppose this legislation, which would create three tolled expressways in Florida. The Sunshine State already has a spotty history when it comes to environmental conservation, as lawmakers have swept hundreds of millions in Florida Forever dollars into the general revenue fund over the past decade. This bill threatens future preservation efforts without compelling justifications.