April 19, 2024

Florida Law

Florida's constitutional amendments are a mixed bag

The Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years, has proposed eight constitutional amendments — many combining multiple measures. Five single-topic proposals from the Legislature or citizens were already slated for the ballot.

Jason Garcia | 6/28/2018

  NO. 11

Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provisions; Criminal Statutes

Proposal

This three-for-one amendment would repeal a 92-yearold provision in the constitution barring immigrants who aren’t eligible for citizenship from owning property, allow lawmakers to make some changes to criminal laws retroactive and erase a constitutional amendment ordering the construction of a high-speed train that voters had already voted to repeal.

Pro and Con

Florida was one of a number of states that adopted Alien Land Laws in the 1910s and 1920s — part of an effort to prevent Asian immigrants from owning property. Critics say it is a racist and antiquated relic, though Florida voters have rejected previous attempts to repeal it. Supporters of the criminal-law change say it would ensure that prisoners punished under older, stricter laws could have their sentences revised when the Legislature makes legal changes like eliminating mandatory minimum sentences. Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment ordering the construction of a bullet train between Orlando and Tampa in 2000, then voted for an amendment repealing that amendment in 2004. Nobody ever bothered to remove the actual words from the constitution, though.

Political Context

Asian-American groups, such as the Organization for Chinese Americans, have been pushing states to repeal alien land laws for years. The Greater Orlando Asian American Bar Association calls it the “last vestige of racism” in the Florida constitution. Meanwhile, some of the strongest support for allowing lawmakers to make criminal changes retroactive has come from gun-rights groups such as the NRA-aligned Unified Sportsmen of Florida. The push appears to stem from the hope that it might ensure that an NRAbacked law the Legislature passed last year — which made it clear that prosecutors, not defendants, must meet the burden of proof in pretrial Stand Your Ground hearings — can be applied retroactively.

  NO. 12

Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

Proposal

This amendment would prevent the governor, Cabinet members, agency heads, state lawmakers and local elected officials from getting paid to lobby their former colleagues for six years after they leave office. It would impose a similar ban forbidding justices and judges from lobbying the Legislature or executive branch for six years. It also requires stricter ethical standards for all public officers and public employees that must, at minimum, forbid them from abusing their positions in order to benefit themselves, their spouses, their children, their employer or their businesses.

Pro and Con

Most everybody at least publicly favors stronger ethics laws. But there is an argument that imposing restrictions on what public officials can do for a living after they leave office can deter otherwise strong candidates from pursuing public service at all.

Political Context

This amendment was a top priority for Corcoran, who failed to get a similar package of reforms through the Florida Senate. At one point, it looked like Corcoran might share the ballot with the proposed amendment by running for governor, but he recently opted not to run after concluding he couldn’t win.

  NO. 13

Ends Dog Racing

Proposal

The proposal would outlaw greyhound racing in Florida by Dec. 31, 2020, though it would allow tracks to continue other pari-mutuel offerings such as card rooms and simulcast betting on dog races in other states.

Pro and Con

Animal-rights activists have been lobbying the Legislature for years to end dog racing, arguing that animals are treated inhumanely. The tracks counter that activists have made misleading claims and that they support thousands of jobs.

Political Context

Lawmakers have been wrestling for a long time about what to do about greyhound racing. But they remain paralyzed on the issue because every time a racing bill begins to advance, it collapses amid competing amendments pushed by a hornet’s nest of gambling interests. Getting this onto the ballot — assuming it survives a promised legal challenge from the Florida Greyhound Association — is also a win for greyhoundracing opponent Attorney General Pam Bondi, who can’t seek re-election because of term limits.

Tags: Politics & Law, Government/Politics & Law

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