Supreme Court accepts ‘bundling’ challenge to constitutional amendments

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The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously agreed to consider a challenge on whether three proposed constitutional amendments should be blocked from the November ballot.

The court, however, postponed a decision “as to whether the case will be submitted … with or without oral argument,” its order said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed after Circuit Judge Karen Gievers found that the three proposals – including a measure that would ban offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in workplaces – improperly “bundled” unrelated issues.

In her ruling, Gievers agreed with retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead and another plaintiff that such bundling would violate the First Amendment rights of voters, who could have conflicting views of issues in single ballot proposals.

The 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission this spring approved placing the three measures on the ballot.

Along with the proposal on drilling and vaping, Gievers struck from the ballot a measure that deals with governance of the state-college system and death benefits for survivors of first responders and military members.

Also, she struck a measure that 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.

The Supreme Court already has ruled on legal challenges to four other proposed amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission. Justices upheld three of the proposals, including a proposed ban on dog racing, though they blocked a controversial education measure.

After a Leon County circuit judge ruled last week that three proposed constitutional amendments should be blocked from the November ballot, the legal dispute has moved quickly to the Florida Supreme Court.

The 1st District Court of Appeal had 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, that court said “the issues pending in this case are of great public importance requiring immediate resolution by the Supreme Court.”

The high court asked for the state’s initial brief “no later than 3 p.m., Monday, Sept. 17,” with Anstead’s answer brief “no later than (noon on) Friday, Sept. 21,” and the state’s reply brief “no later than (noon on) Monday, Sept. 24.”


Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post. Background provided by The News Service of Florida, reprinted with permission.

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