Thursday, January 13, 2005

Run for Your Lives

From the Sun-Sentinel:

TALLAHASSEE — A move is under way by conservative Republicans in the Florida Legislature to rewrite the Florida Constitution, setting off fears among skeptics that it will turn into a legislative assault on abortion rights, church-state separations and other controversial topics that have enjoyed protections from political intrusion.

Led by a pair of Central Florida legislators, backers of the rewrite proposal have already won the blessings of several top legislative leaders, including Senate President Tom Lee and Gov. Jeb Bush. Those leaders have been among the fiercest critics of many recent-years’ changes to the constitution that mandated reforms that the Legislature had rejected, such as state spending on items like a high-speed rail system and public school class size reduction.


The idea, they say, will be for the Legislature to begin this spring a two-year review of streamlining the constitution and convert it into a more “pure” or “pristine” document. That new document, they say, would have to win approval from both the state House and Senate, and go to voters for approval as early as the fall 2006 elections.

“We’ll be getting rid of things that ought not be in there, but at the same time, maybe putting in things that belong, a streamlining,” said Rep. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican who heads the House Judiciary Committee.


While acknowledging that the constitution has become somewhat unwieldy, several Democratic state legislators said they are worried that the Republican-dominated Legislature would take a more ambitious bite at the constitution. They said they fear the undoing of such things as a privacy provision that the courts have used to throw out challenges to Florida’s abortion laws.

They also foresee Republicans attempting to undo a provision of the constitution, known as a Blaine amendment, which prohibits the state from funneling taxpayer dollars to religious institutions. That argument is being used to challenge the state’s public school voucher law.

Mark Twain was right: No one’s life, liberty or property is safe when the Legislature is in session.