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No. 1: Try earlier sessions

Here's the ballot language for the first constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 Florida ballot: "Proposing an amendment to the state Constitution to require the Legislature to convene at an earlier specified date in 1991 and, in 1992 and thereafter, to convene on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February of each odd-numbered year and on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February, or such other date as may be fixed by law, of each even-numbered year."

Moving the start of most regular sessions of the Legislature from early April to early February is worth a try. (The 1991 session would begin in early March, after that, in early February.)

During the legislative debate of this amendment, several silly reasons were given for convening the Legislature earlier, such as the weather in Tallahassee.

There is one solid reason for earlier session. University of Florida political scientist Richard K. Scher summed it up this way: "The most compelling reason for legislators' desire to move the regular session back to February concerns the budget process."

Under the present schedule, the Legislature's 60-day regular sessions end around June 1. The appropriations bill usually is the last measure passed. By the time the governor executes his powers, it is mid-June. With the new fiscal year beginning July 1, many state and local agencies are uncertain about their programs until a few days before the new fiscal year begins.

We recommend a yes vote on Amendment No. 1 with the hope that it will bring more order to the state's budget-making.

However, the public should not expect too much. The major ills of the Florida Legislature _ too much power in the hands of leaders, manipulated last-hour lawmaking and corrupt lobbying _ won't be affected by this amendment. Also, there is no guarantee that starting earlier will mean ending on time, or that some other factor, such as less accurate revenue forecasts, won't turn out to be worse than the present late finish.

Amendments at a glance

Here's a summary of the four constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot, and our recommendations:

No. 1: Legislative sessions earlier in the year, Yes.

No. 2: Three-day waiting period on handgun purchases, Yes.

No. 3: Regulating state mandates to local governments, No.

No. 4: Applying open government laws to Legislature, Yes.

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