By John Haughey | Watchdog.org
October 26, 2018
With 12 amendments on a ballot crammed with local, state and Congressional elections, Amendment 11 has not garnered much attention and that, supporters say, could cause it to fall short of the 60 percent super-majority needed to encode the measure into the state’s constitution.
“This proposal is way down a very long ballot,” James Madison Institute (JMI) Vice President for Policy Sal Nuzzo told Watchdog News. “Voter fatigue makes it less likely” the proposal will pass.
Too bad, Nuzzo said, because it contains three good measures that merit adoption – particularly one that would repeal the state’s ’Savings Clause,’ which prohibits retroactively adjusting criminal sentences after new laws are passed reducing them.
Amendment 11 is among six “bundled” amendments on the ballot, meaning it asks voters to answer to three different questions with one “yes” or “no” response.
The proposals were lumped together by the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) in May because they all delete “outdated sections of the Florida Constitution.”
Amendment 11’s ballot language reads: “Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.”
“Admittedly, the language is a bit confusing,” said Nuzzo, who is also the Director of the Center For Economic Prosperity at JMI, a Tallahassee-based conservative think-tank.
While it is not spelled out on the ballot, that “obsolete language” is a 2004 authorization of a high-speed rail, a repeal of the 1926 Alien Land Law that prohibits immigrants ineligible for American citizenship from owning, inheriting or possessing property – which was declared unconstitutional in 1948 by the U.S. Supreme Court and has never been enforced in Florida – and the repeal of the 1885 “Savings Clause.”
Nuzzo said getting rid of a constitutional provision that makes the previously convicted ineligible for sentence reductions under new laws is a necessary component to the state’s judicial reform efforts.
“How this works is best illustrated through an example,” he said. “Someone is sentenced to 15 years. Five years in, the state changes the penalty to five years. The person sentenced to 15 years would still be required to serve the remaining sentence.”
Nuzzo said lawmakers “should have the flexibility” to change sentences – past, present, future – especially when overwhelming data indicates imprisoning non-violent offenders, particularly those convicted of drug-related crimes, offers little return on the increasingly burdensome investment taxpayers make in law enforcement and corrections.
While there is “not too much at all” opposition, several prominent newspapers – The Sun Sentinel, the Tampa Bay Times, among them – have urged voters to reject it because of fears it is, somehow, an effort by the National Rifle Association to apply the state’s ’Stand Your Ground’ law retroactively.