TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As a court fight rages over a Republican-crafted law requiring Florida's felons to pay court fees, fines, and restitution before being eligible to vote, newly filed Democratic legislation seeks to forge a compromise by striking fees and fines from the law but still requiring restitution to be paid in full.
- Florida Dems want compromise in Amendment 4 implementation law
- Rep. Al Jacquet (D-West Palm Beach) sponsoring SB 6007
- PREVIOUS COVERAGE:
The bill, SB 6007, is being sponsored by Rep. Al Jacquet (D-West Palm Beach), who took to the House floor in May to rally against the GOP's Amendment 4 implementation law, akin to a "poll tax," and urged Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to find his "Abraham Lincoln moment" by vetoing the measure.
DeSantis ultimately signed it, prompting the federal court challenge. The issue is whether, in approving Amendment 4 last November, voters intended to allow felons who have completed their prison sentences but still owe fees, fines and restitution, to automatically regain the right to vote.
Republicans say no.
"Fines and certain fees were incorporated within the four corners of the sentence," Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) said during a committee hearing earlier this year.
In proposing to waive the fees and fines requirement but maintain the mandate that felons pay restitution to their victims before being eligible to vote, Democrats are also seeking to take a central argument made by the law's supporters off the table.
Unpaid restitution, Republicans have maintained, amounts to justice denied.
"I'm going to also, with those folks that have had their rights restored, also remember the victims in this process," Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton) said during the House debate over the law.
Though Republican leaders deny it, their legislative and legal maneuvering regarding Amendment 4 carries a strong political undercurrent. Of the estimated 1.4 million felons who could be eligible to vote under the amendment, observers in both parties say an overwhelming majority would register as Democrats. Such a surge could threaten the GOP's nearly quarter-century lock on power in Tallahassee.
While thousands of Florida felons owe restitution, their numbers pale in comparison to those who owe court fees and fines, and under the proposed Democratic legislation, could have their voting rights restored.
Given those stakes, the bill could face dubious prospects of even receiving a hearing when lawmakers return to the Capitol for committee hearings this fall.