April 23, 2010 WEEK 8
540 Beverly Court Ben Wilcox, LWVF
Tallahassee, Fl. 32301 Governmental Consultant
Week eight of the 2010 legislative session is over and there was action on issues that fall under the League's priorities. There is now one week remaining in the 2010 legislative session.
First some good news. This week the legislature passed House Bill 105 requiring testing of civic education at the middle school level. As you know, the League helped pass a requirement three years ago that civic education be taught in middle school. The new testing requirement will ensure that civic education is being taught in a meaningful way. The bill is now on Governor Crist's desk where it's expected to be signed into law. If it does become law, this will be a victory for the League.
Also this week, the Legislature held several committee hearings on the bills that attack the FairDistrictsFlorida constitutional amendments to reform the redistricting process. The House Rules Committee passed the bill on Wednesday and the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee amended the bill and passed it on Thursday. The League spoke against the legislation at each meeting. On Friday morning it came before the full House on second reading and it was amended to conform to the Senate bill.
As they stand now, Senate Joint Resolution 2288 and House Joint Resolution 7231 would add an amendment to the constitution which would basically nullify the FairDistrictsFlorida amendments 5 and 6. Citing the need to "clarify" the Fair Districts amendments, the legislation says "district boundaries and plans shall be drawn in a manner that respects communities of common interests." This provision would in effect allow the legislature to justify gerrymandering or manipulating district lines for political purposes. It also requires the legislature to give "priority to the standards" contained in the legislature's amendment over the standards in the FairDistrictsFlorida amendments.
Joining the League in opposition to the proposed amendment are a number of allies including the NAACP who has taken issue with claims by the amendment's supporters that it would add protection of minority voting rights. The NAACP had called the proposed amendment a "sham."
Like the Fair Districts amendments, the proposed legislation would also have to be adopted by the voters, but it is misleading and difficult to understand its true intent. The legislation requires a super majority vote in both Houses to pass. It is likely to come up for a final vote in the House on Monday. It still needs to go through the Rules Committee in the Senate which will likely happen early next week. The League is urging its members to call or e-mail their Senator and Representative as soon as possible and urge them to vote against these bills. Please go to http://tinyurl.com/25b93oa and enter your zip code to find your legislator.
Also looming in the final week of the legislative session is SJR 2550/HJR1399; these bills bring back the issue of state funded vouchers going to private schools. The League spoke against the bill in committee because we support the current language in the Florida Constitution that prohibits state funding to parochial schools.
The League does not have a position on separation of church and state. We base our opposition to this legislation on the 1978 LWVUS opposition to tuition tax credits to private schools at the time when public schools were being desegregated. We began using the position in 1994.
If this legislation is passed, the state will be allowed to give tax monies to further education in religious schools. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that vouchers to private and parochial schools are unconstitutional. The proposed legislation will change the Constitution to allow this practice. The League urges you to contact your legislators and tell them to vote "NO" on these bills. Go to http://tinyurl.com/2699d7z to find your Senator and Representative.
The so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR legislation has not been moving in the legislative process. The League is monitoring this legislation closely, but it has yet to be to be put on the agenda of the Finance and Tax Committee in either House. Senate Joint Resolution 2420 by Senator Haridopolos would require state government to follow a strict formula for raising and spending funds. It would severely restrict the ability of future legislatures to raise new revenues and meet the state's needs in education, public safety and health care.
This weekend, conference committees will continue meeting to try to resolve the differences between the House and Senate on the budget. The two chambers will have to reach an agreement early next week in order to pass a budget by the scheduled end of the session on Friday.
Next week the legislature will mainly be meeting on the floors of the full House and Senate. Please contact your legislators as soon as possible.
League Priority Issues for 2010
The LWVF has set six program areas for 2010 including Government, Education, Justice, Social Policy, Sustainability and Natural Resources. Under three program areas there are priority subcategories as follows:
Government: Promote an open government that is responsive to the people of the state.
■ Equitable Taxation - The League supports tax legislation which does not jeopardize
local service, addresses infrastructure deficits and removes unfair tax exemptions
that affect governments' ability to serve citizens.
■ Redistricting Reform - The League supports single-member election districts that are
equal in population, that provide access for minorities, are compact and, when possible,
take local characteristics such as political and geographical boundaries into
■ Citizen Initiatives - As bills addressing citizen initiatives arise; the League will oppose bills that increase the moneyed interests' strangle-hold on the initiative process and the legislative process and, where appropriate, advance the idea of a citizen statutory initiative.
■ Elections - The League supports legislation that promotes stricter election audits and
would give the Supervisors of Elections more flexibility in selecting early voting sites.
Education: Priorities are: Funding, Accountability and Civic Education.
Social Policy: Priority is Health Care.
We are still looking for folks to participate in the Lobbying Corps so please contact Marilynn Wills (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rebecca Sager (email@example.com) if you are interested.
Updates on League legislative issues will be provided on a regular basis through Capitol Report which is published every week during the Session. Important information may also be accessed through the Internet at www.leg.state.fl.us.
Watch for your Capitol Report each Friday of the Session for news on priority issues and what you can do to help.
FOR FURTHER INFO: The newsletter is available at the LWVF's website: http://www.lwvfla.org/ . For updates on or copies of proposed legislation, call legislative information at 1-800-342-1827 or visit the Florida Online Sunshine homepage at www.leg.state.fl.us
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF FLORIDA540 Beverly Court
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