Committee pushes back in the case over the financial impact statement on an abortion rights amendment

Roe v Wade rally after SCOTUS decision
"Access to abortion is health care" sign at the “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally along the downtown waterfront of St. Petersburg, Florida. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News (24 June 2022).

©2024 The News Service of Florida

A political committee leading efforts to pass a constitutional amendment on abortion rights has urged an appeals court to uphold a circuit judge’s decision that would require revamping a “financial impact statement” that will appear on the ballot.

The committee Floridians Protecting Freedom filed a 64-page brief Tuesday that said the 1st District Court of Appeal should reject state arguments that Leon Circuit Judge John Cooper did not have the authority to order redrafting the statement.

Such statements appear with ballot initiatives to provide estimated effects of the measures on government revenues and the state budget.

A state panel known as the Financial Impact Estimating Conference issued the statement for the abortion measure in November.

But Floridians Protecting Freedom filed a lawsuit seeking a revised statement after the state Supreme Court on April 1 issued a ruling that cleared the way for a law preventing abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The political committee argued the ruling made the statement inaccurate and outdated. Cooper, in a June 10 decision, agreed with the committee and ordered that the statement be redrafted within 15 days.

But the state appealed, contending that Cooper didn’t have the legal authority to make such a decision. Attorneys for Floridians Protecting Freedom disputed the state’s arguments in Tuesday’s brief.

“The (Florida) Constitution provides a standard: The statement must provide the ‘probable financial impact’ and the ballot be clear and accurate,” the committee’s attorneys wrote. “If the state were correct in its argument, the state could put any financial impact statement on the ballot that it pleased, in violation of Florida law and without recourse, no matter how misleading.”

The proposed constitutional amendment, which has drawn opposition from Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state Republican leaders, seeks to enshrine abortion rights in the Constitution.

It says, in part, that no “law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”

The financial impact statement issued in November included caveats about litigation surrounding state abortion laws and concluded, “Because there are several possible outcomes related to this litigation that differ widely in their effects, the impact of the proposed amendment on state and local government revenues and costs, if any, cannot be determined.”

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