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Senator
Republican
Aaron Bean
District4
STATE CAPITAL BRIEFS (AFTERNOON EDITION): THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 2018
Senator
Republican
Aaron Bean
District4

PANEL REJECTS ELECTED SECRETARY OF STATE

A proposal to return Florida’s secretary of state to a statewide elected position was defeated Thursday by a Florida Constitution Revision Commission panel. Without debate, the commission’s Executive Committee voted 4-2 against the measure (Proposal 14), which was sponsored by former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. Gaetz said he filed the proposal, which would take effect in the 2022 election, to bring Florida in line with the majority of states that let voters pick the state’s top elections official. Florida had an elected secretary of state until 2003, when the elected position was eliminated as part of a constitutional amendment that shrank the state Cabinet from six to three members. The secretary of state is currently appointed by the governor. Gaetz said having an independently elected secretary of state would avoid “awkward” situations or even conflicts of interest in election disputes. Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who is sponsoring a similar measure (SJR 506) in the Legislature, testified in support of Gaetz’s proposal. Bean said after the meeting that he is not likely to advance his Senate measure because of opposition in the House. Although Gaetz’s proposal was defeated Thursday, it could be revived when the full Constitution Revision Commission meets later this year. The commission, which meets every 20 years, has the ability to place constitutional amendments directly on the 2018 general election ballot. Ballot proposals must be approved by 60 percent of the voters to take effect.

FLORIDA FOREVER BOOST MOVING TO SENATE FLOOR

A proposal that would designate $100 million a year for the Florida Forever land-preservation program is ready to go to the Senate floor. On Thursday, the Appropriations Committee unanimously backed a measure (SB 370) by Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. The Florida Forever program, which in the past received as much as $300 million a year, has for nearly a decade fallen out of favor among lawmakers. “With this bill, Senator Bradley is ensuring Florida’s growth is balanced with land conservation, now and in the future,”Aliki Moncrief, of the Florida Conservation Voters, said in a statement following the meeting. Gov. Rick Scott proposed spending $50 million on the program next year. Voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment that requires a portion of real-estate taxes to be used for conservation. Bradley’s bill would tap part of that money for Florida Forever. Lawmakers also are looking at using the money for other environmental projects. Bradley wants to increase annual funding (SB 204) for the state's natural springs from $50 million to $75 million and to set aside $50 million a year for the restoration of the St. Johns River, its tributaries and the Keystone Heights lake region in North Florida. Meanwhile, Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, are seeking another $50 million from the fund (SB 786 and HB 339) to help restore the condition of the Indian River Lagoon. Also, Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, has taken over legislation (SB 174), initially filed by former Sen. Jack Latvala, that seeks $50 million a year for beach projects.

ACLU SINKS $400,000 INTO FELONS’ RIGHTS AMENDMENT

Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore felons’ rights raised about $548,000 in December, with $400,000 coming from the American Civil Liberties Union, according to a newly filed finance report. The political committee Floridians for a Fair Democracy, which is trying to get the measure on the November ballot, has raised about $4.6 million and spent nearly $4.3 million since being formed in 2014. The committee needs to submit 766,200 valid petition signatures to the state by a Feb. 1 deadline to get on the ballot. As of Thursday afternoon, it had submitted 692,134 signatures, according to the state Division of Elections website. The proposal, if approved in November, would automatically restore voting rights for all nonviolent felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution. Felons convicted of violent crimes, such as murder, would not be eligible.

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