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Controversy continues over Amendment 4 legislation

Lawmakers grappling with how to implement Amendment 4
Posted at 5:45 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 17:45:29-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Lawmakers are grappling with how to implement Amendment Four approved by voters in November.

The amendment restores voting rights to felons once they've "completed all-terms of their sentence, including parole or probation."

That excludes people convicted of a murder or a sexual offense.

But lawmakers can't decide if felons should have to pay-off their financial obligations first before their rights can be restored.

Legislation passed by the House State Affairs Committee has infuriated supporters of the amendment.

Protest comes from the bill's definition of what completion of a sentence means.

"If it is in the four corners of the sentence, it is the sentence," said State Representative James Grant. "When the voters were offered a contract, and they were asked 'do you believe in the automatic restoration of rights after they complete all terms of their sentence?' We are going to honor that."

Opponents of the bill say the requirement that all financial obligations must be repaid will disqualify many low income people from ever getting their voting rights restored.

Democratic State Representative Clovis Watson said the best way for people to succeed after serving prison time is to treat them like everyone else.

"When you are free from confinement, you must be free for the opportunity to vote. If not, you are still confined, just not between prison walls," said Watson.

The bill is now ready for consideration by the full House of Representatives.

A related bill in the Florida Senate is scheduled for a committee hearing on Monday.