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Amendment 4 Legislation Already Splitting Left and Right

March 19th, 2019 by Jake Stofan

An estimated 1.4 million felons in Florida are waiting to see how the Legislature implements Amendment 4, so they will know if they’re eligible to have their voting rights automatically restored.

The first bill proposed in the House is drawing criticism from Democrats and Amendment 4 authors for being too restrictive.

The Legislature’s role in implementing amendment 4 comes down to three basic questions.

What offenses fall under murder?

What crimes are a sexual offense?

And when has a felon completed their sentence?

The House implementing bill cleared its first committee with a vote down party lines.

“The will over the voter was to not go as far as this bill has gone,” said Democratic Representative Michael Grieco.

Sponsor James Grant says he included a broad definition of disqualifying sexual offenses and completion of sentence in an attempt to say as true to the amendment language as possible.

“If I was to step in and start parsing intent and thoughts and objections or objectives of different stakeholders, you’re just carving up the deer and you’ve lost sight of what is actually the guide,” said Grant.

But amendment authors say, requiring all court costs and fees be paid before a person becomes eligible for restoration is problematic.

“We know that that impacts thousands and thousands of people all across the state, especially people of color, people without a lot of resources,” said Neal Volz with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Governor Ron DeSantis says he doesn’t want the Legislature to miss the target and end up back in court.

He says it all comes down to intent.

“The question is though, are those exclusions,” said DeSantis. “What did the average voter construe that to mean?”

The Senate is expected to unveil its implementing bill next week.

It’s expected to be less restrictive than the House.

Under the clemency system, which has previously been the only avenue for rights restoration, felons were only obligated to pay fines and fees if they were specifically included in a judge’s sentence.

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