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State responds to challenge of six bundled amendment proposals, calls them proper

Former chief justice Harry Lee Anstead asked the Supreme Court to remove them from the November ballot.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Tampa Bay Times]
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Aug. 20, 2018

Hours after a Leon County judge tossed proposed constitutional Amendment 8 off the November ballot, calling it misleading, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a 47-page document asking the Supreme Court to leave the measure and five others on the ballot.

Hers was a response to a separate challenge, filed a week earlier by former chief justice Harry Lee Anstead. He contended the six proposals were unconstitutionally bundled, and asked for their removal.

Related coverage: Former Florida chief justice challenges Amendment 8, five others as unconstitutionally bundled 

Not so, Bondi contended in her answer, filed on behalf of Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

She wrote that only ballot initiatives conducted by the public need to meet the state's single-subject rule, because they lack the oversight process that the Constitution Revision Commission and Legislature have when they create and adopt proposals.

"As this Court has explained, concern about 'logrolling' is unique to proposals via petition initiative because 'the public has had no representative interest in drafting" them. Fine v. Firestone, 448 So. 2d 984, 988 (Fla. 1984). The other processes by which amendments may be proposed—'[t]he legislative, revision commission, and constitutional convention processes'—'all afford an opportunity for public hearing and debate not only on the proposal itself but also in the drafting of any constitutional proposal," the document states.

The Constitution Revision Commission held multiple public hearings, workshops and meetings on its way to adopting its recommended revisions.

The state further argues that the Secretary of State cannot be held to the standard of the writ Anstead seeks, because Detzner himself did not improperly exercise his role in placing the items on the ballot. It goes on to say that the petitioners filed their request too late, and should have done so in circuit court.

On the merits, the state contends, "The proposed revisions do not violate Florida law."

Pointing specifically to Amendment 8, which packages three education-related items, the state argues that the language is not misleading. In fact, it goes on, the title and summary offer "almost verbatim what the constitutional language currently says, how it would change, and what the practical effect of the Amendment would be."

The state also rejects the contention that Amendment 8, also referred to as Revision 3, would undo the constitution's longstanding clause requiring a uniform system of free public education:

"Petitioners' argument—that Revision 3 would eliminate the uniformity requirement set forth in Article IX § 1(a) of the Florida Constitution and overrule Bush v. Holmes—thus depends on the erroneous assumption that the Revision would assign authority to operate certain schools to a private entity outside the supervision of the State. Revision 3 would do nothing of the sort. Revision 3 would revoke local school boards' operational authority with respect to certain schools, limiting their operational authority to only those schools the boards themselves 'established.' Pet. App'x C2. Revision 3 is silent as to what entity would operate other schools—i.e., those established other than by local school boards—and certainly does not delegate such authority to a private entity." 

The case has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. Read the state's full response here.