INITIATIVE COULD OPEN STATE FUNDS FOR RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS - Mitch Perry

12/17/04

A sentence in Florida’s Constitution that forbids the state to use public money to “directly or indirectly� help religious institutions has been mentioned this week as a possible thorn in blocking the Pre-Kindergarten program approved by the Legislature yesterday.

The same line has been used to thwart the state’s school voucher law….

So Florida State Senator Daniel Webster is saying the state should get rid of that line in the Constitution.

Webster, who represents Winter Haven, says he may try as early as next spring to get the Legislature to put the Amendment change on the ballot in 2006.

If approved by voters, the repeal would free lawmakers from the constraints that prevent them from using taxpayer money on religious schools – an issue that some say could stop the statewide pre-K program.

Governor Jeb Bush has asked the Florida Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that last month invalidated his voucher-based Opportunity Scholarship Program because of the religious ban.

WMNF was unable to speak to Senator Webster today to hear more about his proposal.

But the attorney leading the lawsuit against the school voucher program –Tallahassee lawyer Ron Meyer – tells WMNF that he thinks it’s bad idea. (roll tape#1 o.q.�Constitutional Infirmity�)

That ‘s Tallahassee Attorney Ron Meyer, lead counsel for a coalition of groups opposing Governor Bush’s attempt to have taxpayers money support a School Voucher program.

Senator Dan Webster also said that he is considering pursuing a ballot initiative banning gay marriage. Governor Bush yesterday said he did NOT think that is needed, referring back to a 1977 state law that he says is strong enough on its own.

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