Public hearings were held across the state by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission during which hundreds of concerned citizens voiced their opinions about the changes that should or should not be made to the Florida constitution. We’ve been watching this process closely because some propositions, if approved, would open the flood gates for public money to flow into private religious schools. See our Issues page on this for the full background and updates on this.
The public hearings are over and the Commission will now make their final decisions as to which propositions will be put before the voters and how the ballot language will be phrased.
This article provides a very good summary of what the process entails now:
Facing a May 10 deadline, the commission will start meeting Monday in the Senate chamber in Tallahassee as it considers three dozen proposed constitutional changes that have emerged from committee hearings.
The commission, which meets every 20 years and has the unique power to place issues directly on the general election ballot, has scheduled seven floor sessions to wade through the proposals, ending on March 27.
Martinez is sponsoring a measure (Proposal 4) that would remove from the state Constitution the so-called “no-aid” provision, which prevents public spending on churches and other religiously affiliated groups.
To remain viable as potential ballot initiatives, all the measures must receive a majority vote from the commission to advance to the CRC’s Style and Drafting Committee.
The style and drafting panel, which also will begin meeting next week, will play a key role in refining the proposals and creating ballot titles. The committee will also decide whether to let proposals stand as individual items or to group several proposals into single ballot items.
Proposals placed on the ballot will need support from at least 60 percent of the voters to be enacted.
The good news is that a poll was done recently to see what kind of public support there might be for the various propositions. The no aid proposition isn’t looking too good.
[…] voters appear unlikely to approve another high-profile proposal that would lift a ban on state money being used to support churches and other religious groups — what is commonly known as the “no aid” provision of the Constitution.
The no-aid provision, for example, has become an issue in debates about school vouchers. The 1st District Court of Appeal in 2004 cited the provision in striking down a voucher program that paid for children to go to religious schools, though the Florida Supreme Court later found the program unconstitutional on other grounds.
The poll indicated only 41 percent of voters said they “definitely” or “probably” would support a proposed constitutional amendment to remove the no-aid provision from the Constitution, while 51 percent said they definitely or probably would not.
But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax. We all need to stay on top of this issue when public voting starts. And there are other propositions to be wary of, such as #45, which was detailed in our previous post Constitution Revision Commission Update II:
The obvious intent [of proposition 45] is to open a door for state funding of private schools if the legislature deems them to be for, “other educational services that benefit the children and families of this state that are in addition to the system of free public schools.” When combined with Proposition 4, virtually all limits at the state level to taxpayer dollars flowing to support private schools with anti-science agendas will be gone.