Florida voters should be aware of four significant developments in April affecting state government:
- The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) approved eight amendments for the November ballot, bringing to 13 the number of amendments Florida voters will decide;
- A judge upheld a 2017 education law challenged by Collier, Lee and 12 other school boards;
- An appeals court handed Gov. Rick Scott a win on a voter rights restoration case; and
- The Legislature failed to reach agreement on an updated gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, but the Tribe will keep making its monthly payments through next May.
For more on these and other top state news stories, read on!
2018 constitutional amendments
There will be 13 amendments on our ballot in November — eight from the CRC, three from the Legislature, and two from citizens’ initiatives.
Several CRC amendments bundle multiple changes into one ballot question, so there are really more than 13 different changes to consider.
The bundling by the CRC has been, in my view, rightly criticized:
- Editorial: CRC bundling shouldn’t save bad proposals. A Constitution is a framework to safeguard fundamental rights that will stand the test of time, not be the kitchen sink repository of proposals addressing the latest trends that could disappear as quickly as the vapor from an electronic cigarette. Naples Daily News, 4/21/18
The criticism is particularly apt with respect to what will be Amendment 8 – School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools.
- Opinion: Don’t be fooled by proposed education amendment. The CRC proposal would take power away from our local elected school boards and give it to an unelected, unaccountable state board with free rein to create charter schools whenever and wherever they want. By Pamela S. Goodman, President, League of Women Voters of Florida, via Palm Beach Post, 4/10/18
However in an op-ed in support of the amendment, CRC Education Committee and Collier School Board member Erika Donalds said the bundling of three education proposals into one was a “logical grouping” that is “in keeping with the work of previous Constitution Revision Commissions.”
I’ll write more about the amendments and how I plan to vote on them closer to November.
Florida school boards lose HB 7069 lawsuit — for now
In 2017, Gov. Scott signed HB 7069, a 274-page, charter-friendly education bill that covers a wide range of provisions, some easing the ways in which charter schools can open and secure tax dollars. Ultimately, fourteen of Florida’s 67 school boards challenged aspects of the law.
On a 3–2 vote, Collier’s school board joined the lawsuit as an “intervening member,” challenging two specific issues: the Schools of Hope charter program, and standardized charter school contracts.
- Judge upholds education law challenged by Collier, Lee and other school boards. Naples Daily News, 4/25/18
- Bay District to continue fight against HB 7069, seeking an argument that could take the appeal straight to the Florida Supreme Court. News-Herald, 4/25/18
- Lee school board votes to appeal ruling that 2017 law is constitutional, approving spending up to $25,000 on the appeal. News-Press, 4/25/18
A win for Gov. Scott — for now
In a landmark ruling with far-reaching implications, a U.S. District Judge in February found Florida’s scheme for restoring the voting rights of felons unconstitutional. Last month, on a 2–1 vote, a federal appeals court disagreed.
- Appeals court ruling gives Scott a win on voter restoration rights case. Politico Florida, 4/25/18
- Editorial: Playing politics with the right to vote. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 4/15/18
- Related: Florida strips felons of their right to vote at a higher rate than any other state. Tallahassee Democrat, 1/5/18
With the appeals court win, there’s little chance any of Florida’s 1.5 million former felons will have their rights restored in time to vote later this year.
Now it’s up to the voters. Amendment 4, if approved in November, would automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences.
A missed opportunity on the gaming front
- Legislators can’t agree; will let voters decide who can OK more gambling. Miami-Herald, 4/25/18
At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars a year of state revenue, the loss of which would leave a significant hole in the budget.
The backstory: An agreement originally ratified by the Legislature in 2010 and renegotiated in 2015 provides the Seminole Tribe of Florida with exclusivity over most casino-style games in exchange for monthly deposits to the state treasury. While the 2015 compact has a twenty-year term, the authorization for banked card games expired on July 31, 2015, and since then, the parties have been trying to agree on a new contract to replace the lost revenues.
A hoped-for agreement that could have been ratified in a special session did not materialize. To forestall expanding slot machine gaming around the state, the Tribe said it would continue its monthly revenue sharing payments until May 2019, when next year’s session ends.
Meanwhile, a “Voters In Charge” initiative gathered enough petitions to put Amendment 3 – Voter Control of Gambling in Florida on the November ballot. The extent of gambling expansion in Florida could be up to the voters to decide.
In other state government news…
- Schools confront cost of new security law — and need for budget cuts. Herald-Tribune, 4/16/18
- As Florida dramatically slashes arts funding, theaters and museums scramble. Tampa Bay Times, 4/9/18
- In ‘rare’ rebuke, state auditors say Florida education officials obstructed their work. Politico Florida, 4/6/18
- Florida wants to delay new test-score rules; educators still worry about graduation impact. Orlando Sentinel, 4/16/18
- Lake Okeechobee reservoir land bought by South Florida Water Management District. TCPalm, 4/12/18
- Study: Florida has 2nd lowest tax burden in U.S. Florida Watchdog, 4/23/18
- Editorial: The performance audit that’s most needed. Naples Daily News, 4/7/18
May 2018 candidate forums and town halls
Try to attend one or more of the three upcoming opportunities to hear from candidates for Collier County School Board and the Florida House of Representatives. They are great ways to become more informed voters. All Collier residents vote in a school board elections, regardless of where you live, and Collier residents living in the mid- to western-part of the county are in either House District 80 or 106.
- 5/7/18 – Collier School Board Candidates, 6 – 7:30 PM, The Norris Center, 755 8th Ave S, Naples, co-sponsored by the Collier Citizens Council, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Greater Naples Leadership, the Collier County Presidents Council and the Great Naples Better Government Committee
- 5/10/18 – Collier School Board Candidates, 5 – 7 PM, Marco Island Historical Society, 180 S Heathwood Drive, Marco Island, sponsored by Florida Citizens Alliance
- 5/14/18 – Florida House Primary Candidates (District 80 and 106), 6 – 7:30 PM, The Norris Center, 755 8th Ave S, Naples, co-sponsored by the Collier Citizens Council, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Greater Naples Leadership, the Collier County Presidents Council and the Great Naples Better Government Committee