Thursday, July 19, 2018

Does Florida’s constitutional mandate of one-subject legislation apply to HB 7069?

Logrolling.

It's defined as the practice of including multiple unrelated items in a single legislative bill, with the goal of attracting wider support for the measure as a whole.

Florida's constitution forbids it, stating: "Every law shall embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith, and the subject shall be briefly expressed in the title."

And now nine school districts — Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla — are asking the state Supreme Court to halt HB 7069, the controversial education law adopted in the waning hours of the spring 2017 legislative session, because of it.

"Without the benefit of any conference-committee analysis of the new legislation — and with only a single weekend to review the bill — HB 7069 passed by only two votes in the Florida Senate. This is precisely the type of logrolled legislation that the single-subject rule is designed to prevent," lawyers for the districts wrote in their 715-page (including attachments) brief filed late Monday.

The bill, initially a 6-page committee proposal to amend the Best and Brightest teacher bonus, was in its final form titled simply as "An act relating to education." But it takes  nearly 20 pages to explain the proposed actions before getting to the actual amendments.

Those include, the lawsuit contends, "several provisions unrelated to K-12 education or even to education at any level."

Key lawmakers warned of such a challenge even as they debated the measure on the floor. Sen. David Simmons, who led the Senate discussion on the bill before voting against it, stressed repeatedly that the ideas within HB 7069 deserved to live or die on their own merits, and not be lumped together and shoved through the process.

The Supreme Court has written unfavorably against the practice of logrolling in the past. In the 1980 case Brown v. Firestone, for instance, it stated, "Were we to sanction a rule permitting an appropriations bill to change existing law, the legislature would in many instances be able to logroll, and in every instance the integrity of the legislative process would be compromised."

The plaintiffs in this HB 7069 case argue a similar concern, further suggesting no need existed to create such a wide-ranging law.

"Indeed, nowhere in the 274-page text of HB 7069 does the word 'crisis' appear, nor does the Legislature make any attempt to identify any overarching policy or concern with the education system to warrant such broad legislation," the lawyers wrote.

The districts have asked the court to stop the implementation of HB 7069 and to rule it unconstitutional for violating Article III, Section 6, of the state constitution.

This suit is separate from others challenging the constitutionality of HB 7069 on other grounds, which are filed in Leon County court.

Follow the case filings on the Supreme Court website.

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