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Jax Daily Record Monday, Aug. 20, 201803:48 PM EST

Judge removes Amendment 8 from November ballot

Amendment 6 also is being challenged.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Two of the eight amendments to the state Constitution offered by the Constitution Revision Commission have been challenged in court and one has been removed from the ballot.

A judge in Tallahassee signed an order Monday that would prohibit Secretary of State Ken Detzner from placing proposed Amendment 8 on the Nov. 6 general election ballot for consideration by voters.

Ruling in League of Women Voters of Florida Inc. v. Detzner, 2nd Circuit Judge John Cooper found that the ballot title and language of Amendment 8 “does not accurately inform Florida voters of the true effect of the proposed amendment,” in violation of the Florida Constitution and state statutes.

The proposed amendment is titled, “School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools.”

It combines three proposed changes: one would remove control of charter schools from local school boards; one would impose eight-year term limits for school board members; and the third would require civics education in public schools.

Cooper said that since the amendment relates to charter schools, but does not include that term in its form, it “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect” of the proposal.

“The Constitution Revision Commission knew exactly what they were doing when they drafted Amendment 8 – grouping a controversial measure with popular ideas in an effort to hoodwink voters, then using vague and misleading language to hide that fact, said League of Women Voters President Patricia Brigham in a news release.

The state can appeal Cooper's ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Amendment 6 challenged

Also in the 2nd Circuit, a petition was filed against the Florida Department of State challenging whether the language of Amendment 6, also proposed by the commission, is clear enough to be valid under state law.

The proposed amendment, titled “Rights of Crime Victims; Judges,” comprises three elements. One would provide victims of crimes and their families with increased rights throughout the process of prosecuting alleged perpetrators. Another would increase the mandatory retirement age for judges and justices from 70 years to 75. The third would eliminate discretion that courts give to government agencies when interpreting agency rules and regulations.

“Without question, these subjects have nothing to do with each other. It is hard to imagine how a judge's age has anything to do with the rights of victims or their families in a criminal prosecution or how victims' rights plays a role in a noncriminal administrative case,” the motion states.

A final hearing on the challenge is scheduled Friday before 2nd Circuit Judge Karen Gievers.

Eight proposed amendments were submitted to the secretary of state by the Constitution Revision Commission. The 37-member commission conducted public meetings around the state for more than a year to solicit suggestions about revising the state constitution.

To be enacted, an amendment must be approved by at least 60 percent of voters.

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