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Dean Johnson Reviews Amendment Confusion Hot Topics

Dean Johnson

Any time there are amendments on a ballot, the LWVOC steps up with an information blitz and endorsements. Wednesday’s League Hot Topics, “Amendment Confusion,” highlighted a handful of this year’s propositions.

To begin with, there were 13 proposed amendments for 2018, but that figure is misleading since some of the 13 featured “bundling,” combining unrelated or barely related subjects into one amendment. The first through fifth amendments were proposed by the Legislature or by citizen initiative; the others came from the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years.

UCF professor Aubrey Jewett presented an overall view of the proposals, noting that the state Supreme Court has already dealt a death knell to No. 8 (school board term limits) and that the court is still reviewing three others.

Among the speakers introduced by moderator Mike Lafferty, the two with personal stories stood out. Rachel Sines, a victim of a 2007 violent home invasion, spoke in favor of Amendment 6, particularly for adding Marsy’s Law, a victims’ rights statute, to the state constitution. In her emotional presentation, Sines said that while she had a victim advocate, she felt left out of many of her case’s ins and outs and that she felt an extreme loss of privacy when her attacker, acting as his own attorney, had access to her personal information, such as home address. Ninth Judicial Circuit Public Defender Bob Wesley, speaking against #6, said that he is concerned about the cost in money and time that could result in approval of the amendment. Former state senator Rod Smith also spoke in favor of #6, saying that there are thousands of stories like Rachel Sines’ in the country. “Victims have a right to be heard, represented and informed,” he said.

The Rev. Larry Hopkins, a lay minister at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville, spoke in favor of Amendment 4, which would restore rights of felons who have completed sentences in cases not involving murder or sex offenses. Hopkins said he served time for selling drugs (after he had been addicted to crack cocaine) but that he didn’t want to do drugs and wanted to become a fully invested citizen once he got out of jail. His quest to have his voting rights restored lasted through three governors until Jeb Bush responded favorably. Currently, Florida makes those who have served their sentences wait five years until they can apply for restoration and then petition the clemency board (the governor, the attorney general, the agriculture commissioner, the chief financial officer). Under this system, few petitioners have had their rights restored during the Scott administration. If the amendment passes, it is estimated that it would affect 1.5 million Floridians. “I felt a sense of dignity had been returned,” Hopkins said of the return of his voting rights.

Finally, Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell addressed Amendment 10, a bundled conglomeration about state and local government structure and operation. She supports it.

As part of its mission, the state LWV studies (sometimes for months) the proposed amendments and adopts positions on some of them. This year, the League supports numbers 3, 4, 9 and 13 and opposes 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 10. The League has no position on numbers 11 and 12, and Amendment 8 was removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court. For a list of the amendments, see

Postscript: According to Hot Topics co-chair Ann Hellmuth, there were more than 180 attendees at Wednesday’s event, one of the biggest crowds ever.