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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good news re signature petitions, Florida Hometown Democracy

Just received some good news this morning from the Central Florida Political Pulse blog of the Orlando Sentinel about a subject I wrote about a while back: petition gathering and the effort by some in Tallahassee to make that even harder.

I later found similar stories in the Herald and Sun-Sentinel, but as usual, Aaron Deslatte had more context.

In the next few days, I'll be posting some thoughts and observations on that Broward County Charter Review Commission meeting I attended two weeks ago, especially on the MTA proposal, which I spoke in favor of, recounting some anecdotes about Broward transportation you really need to know about.

I'll also connect-the-dots on the City of Hallandale Beach's effort to prevent the proposal's adoption by the 19-member panel.

Trust me, it's more of the same classic "Only in Hallandale Beach" moments you've come to expect from the crowd at 400 S. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach 33009. _____________________________________________
http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2008/04/hometown-democr.html
Hometown Democracy wins a court victory
posted by Aaron Deslatte on Apr 23, 2008 10:56:29 AM

In the lingering legal fight between Hometown Democracy and the business lobby, the anti-sprawl Hometown crew finally notched a win Wednesday when the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that a signature-petition revocation law the Legislature passed last year was unconstitutional.

After the law passed, Associated Industries of Florida formed a group called Save Our Constitution that targeted thousands of voters who signed Hometown's slow-growth amendment with mailers, asking them to revoke their support with claims that it would destroy the state's "scenic beauty."...

Go to the URL above to see the entire story and the court ruling in a pdf. format.

Reader comments are at:
http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2008/04/hometown-democr.html#comments
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http://www.miamiherald.com/775/story/506679.html
Miami Herald
State appeals court rules in favor of citizens group
April 23, 2008

An appeals court says it is unconstitutional to revoke signatures on petitions to get citizen initiatives on the ballot. The 1st District Court of Appeal decision Wednesday in Tallahassee reversed a lower court ruling. The higher court supported so-called Hometown Democracy proponents.

They seek voter approval for changes to plans laying out where new roads, homes, businesses and other development can be built. The decision rejects efforts by the Legislature and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, who have backed several new laws in recent years making it more difficult to pass initiatives. They contend such moves could limit growth and the state's economy.
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A week earlier, the Sun-Sentinel was reporting:
www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/florida/sfl-flfxgr0416sbapr16,0,6475734.story

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Legislation limiting citizen initiatives advances in House
The Associated Press
April 16, 2008

TALLAHASSEE
A bill that could make it harder for citizens to change the Florida Constitution using petitions has won approval from a House panel.

The bill does that in part by reducing the time signatures are valid for — two years instead of four. Also, cards with the signatures would have to be turned in within 60 days after they are signed. Right now, there is no time limit.
Gov. Charlie Crist last year vetoed a bill that would have required signatures to be turned in 30 days.

Another provision would require criminal background checks for people who get paid to collect signatures.

The bill's opponents, including Common Cause, labor unions and the League of Women Voters, argue that background checks, which can cost up to $85, and other provisions are designed to prevent average citizens from having a voice in government.

Only the wealthy and powerful would be able to afford to sponsor a petition drive, they contended.

Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Adam Babbington said background checks would enhance public safety because "this is an industry that operates in the shadows by and large."

The Chamber supports making it harder to amend the constitution.

Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, was hoping for a rare sweet moment Tuesday in the largely bleak legislative session when she served Key lime pie at the Capitol.

"I hope it helps sweeten up the bitter session," said Bullard, who tasted one of the scores of pies available. "Let people feel good about something."

Across Capitol meeting rooms, firefighters, corrections officers and social workers were tracking down lawmakers in efforts to save jobs and health care for thousands of children.

Lawmakers are poring over budgets passed by the House and Senate and trying to come to agreements over cuts.

"We see all these people leave here feeling so out of sorts, hopeless, like nothing's going to happen," Bullard said.

"The Key lime, I thought, would be perfect to take their minds away from that for the moment."

Reader comments are at:
http://www.topix.net/forum/source/south-florida-sun-sentinel/TL9MA357DKHND42EC
__________________________________________________________________ Below are some excerpts from some older germane links about this subject.

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2008/04/senate-election.html
Senate elections panel tries to undo petition-gathering ruling
posted by Aaron Deslatte on Apr 1, 2008 2:02:54 PM

A Florida Senate panel advanced a package of election-law changes Tuesday that critics said was an attempt to undermine a recent court ruling against the state regarding the way signature-petitions are gathered.

An administrative law judge in late February ruled the state Division of Elections had overstepped its authority when it tried to ban signature groups from "bundling" multiple signature-petitions together when they're presented to voters to sign.

A group called FairDistrictsFlorida.org, which is trying to make it harder for Florida lawmakers to gerrymander their legislative districts, had been circulating several petitions related to its drive to place the re-districting issue on the 2010 ballot...
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http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2008/04/booker-and-dorw.html
Bucher and Dorworth get a timeout
posted by Aaron Deslatte on Apr 1, 2008 4:46:36 PM

In the middle of a hearing over his bill restricting the rights of felons to work as paid signature-gatherers, freshman Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, was getting a grilling by veteran Democratic Rep. Susan Bucher.

The bill, a priority for business groups this year, would also require paid signature-gathers be Florida residents and cleared a Senate panel earlier in the day. But Bucher, D-West Palm Beach, wanted to know how the Department of State was supposed to police thousands of signature-gatherers across the state, who would be required to register with the state under the bill.

Dorworth said he didn't know, then told the panel he was sick, had been curled up in a ball just before the House Economic Development and Infrastructure Council meeting had started, and had been heavily medicated.

"Forgive me if I pass out," he said...

This is the one from one of my other daily must-read's, the St. Petersburg Times' political blog, The Buzz.
Go to the URL to see the reader comments, as they're 100% spot-on!

http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/2008/04/targeting-paid.html
April 01, 2008
Targeting paid petition-gatherers
Mindful of Florida Hometown Democracy's near-miss in its slow-growth ballot initiative, business groups and their legislative allies have a new idea.

They want to require all paid initiative petition signature gatherers to pay a fee, register with the state and be assigned a registration number to appear on petition forms (volunteers would not be affected)....

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