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Senator wants Attorney General Moody’s opinion on Amendment 4

Sen. Jason Pizzo wants to know, should felons have to pay all fines, fees and restitution before voting?
The Buzz has the latest coverage of the 2019 legislative session from the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau.
The Buzz has the latest coverage of the 2019 legislative session from the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau.
Published Apr. 16, 2019

As debate swirls in Tallahassee over Amendment 4, Sen. Jason Pizzo is asking Attorney General Ashley Moody to weigh in.

In a letter sent last week, Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, asked Moody to answer the question at the heart of the debate: Do felons have to pay off all fines, fees and restitution before being allowed to vote?

“This matter is objectively of great public importance, and your opinion would go a long way to lend definition and certainty to critical questions driving conversations statewide,” Pizzo wrote. “There are vast emotional, liberty and financial risks at stake in this matter, and should you accept this request, you would do so with the appreciation of most Floridians, including myself.”

READ MORE: Amendment 4 will likely cost ‘millions’ to carry out. Here’s why.

Moody’s office has not yet responded. Her spokeswoman said Moody received the letter Monday and is reviewing it.

Pizzo isn’t just asking Moody for her personal opinion. He’s asking for her office’s opinion, and the attorney general isn’t required to respond.

But the stakes are high for Amendment 4, which restored the right to vote to more than a million former felons who have completed “all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.”

Republican lawmakers in Tallahasee this session believe “all terms” mean court fees and fines that are tacked automatically tacked on to someone’s sentence, plus any restitution the felon might have to pay to victims.

That could prevent hundreds of thousands of felons from voting simply because they can’t afford it, and some Democrats have called it a “poll tax.”

Pizzo said Tuesday that if lawmakers don’t pass a bill this session, he believes Moody will be required to give an opinion on it anyway.

“The secretary of state’s going to look to her for an interpretation anyway,” he said.

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