State Considers Felon Voting Rights, Sanctuary Cities, Texting and Driving

first_imgThe Florida Legislature on Wednesday considered a few items that could have a major effect on our state.Restoration of Felon Voting Rights:The Florida House approved a plan for implementing a constitutional amendment that restores the voting rights of felons who have fulfilled their prison sentences.However, the vote did not come without some controversy.Democrats argued that the bill would place too many restrictions on felons. Republicans say they are carrying out the words of the amendment as intended.The bill, which passed 71-45, based on party lines, appeared as Amendment 4 on the 2018 ballot.While the constitutional amendment states that voting rights are to be restored to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation,” it excludes people “convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.”The two sides disagree on what constitutes “murder,” and “felony sexual offense,” as well as completion of “all terms of their sentence.”They also do not see eye to eye regarding the financial obligations felons must resolve in order to regain their voting rights.The House plan would require that felons repay all of their financial obligations as ordered by judges, including civil judgements. The Senate proposal would require repayment of restitution, including civil liens, but no other financial obligations that have been converted to civil judgements.Sanctuary Cities:The House also passed a bill designed to ban sanctuary cities by a 69-47 vote, also largely down party lines.The bill, known as HB 527, still needs to pass the Senate, which will debate its version of the bill (SB 168) on Thursday, before it goes to Governor DeSantis’ desk.Democrats call the bill “xenophobic” rhetoric that demonizes illegal immigrants by tying them unfairly to crime.According to Democratic Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando, “This bill is not who we are as Floridians. It is stirring up xenophobic hostility towards immigrants. They are good people . . . they are not criminals. They are not what some of the rhetoric around in this state and in this country has made them out to be.”Republicans respond that their goal is for local law enforcement to communicate and work with federal immigration officials. Republican Representative Mike Beltran says, “We’re not saying illegal immigrants are bad people. But they need to follow the law.”The bill requires local governments and police departments as well as colleges, universities and other local entities to honor requests for detainment from federal immigration officials. Democrats fear that could put city and university leaders at risk for not providing federal authorities with information on undocumented immigrants.Texting and Driving:On another matter, the state Legislature decided to postpone voting on a bill that would address texting while driving due to differences in the legislation being considered in the House and Senate.While the Florida House voted for the bill (HB 107) that would make texting while driving a primary offense, the Senate’s measure (SB 76) includes holding or talking on a cellphone while driving as primary offenses. While tablets and laptops would be included, drivers would still be allowed to talk on the phone in hands-free mode.The House and Senate sponsors of the bill are discussing a possible compromise.last_img

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