Florida Supreme Court rejects three amendments

09/03/08 Mitch E. Perry
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The Florida Supreme Court today threw out three amendments that were on the November ballot, including the controversial Amendment 5, the tax swap amendment.

The justices also rejected Amendments 7 and 9, two measures involving school vouchers that were placed there by the Tax and Budget Reform Commission.

The Justices were unanimous on all three, saying they were improperly placed on the November ballot and were misleading to voters.

Democrat Steven Geller, the outgoing Senate Minority Leader in the Florida Legislature, said he was very pleased.

Amendment 5 was backed by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Realtors Association, but had a host of critics from both the right and the left. The measure would have reduced property taxes by an average of 25 percent, and force legislators to replace the money with sales and other taxes.

But critics argued that the ballot language misled voters into thinking that if they eliminated property taxes that paid for schools, the schools would be protected from budget cuts. In fact, the amendment specified that the Legislature must protect school spending for only one year.

Amendment 7 would have repealed the 100-year ban on direct state funding of religious institutions, including religious schools.

Amendment 9 would have required 65 percent of School Funding for Classroom Instruction. Opponents said the measure was misleading because nearly all Florida school Districts already meet that standard.

Senate Minority Leader Steven Geller blames the Tax and Budget Reform Commission for getting the measures thrown out. The group, assembled only once every two decades, was set up theoretically outside the political system to deal with Florida’s system of collecting revenues. But Geller said he thought the panel was up to no good the day its members were announced.

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