A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 11

Amendment 11
Excerpt from 1885 Florida Constitution. Photo edited and used with permission. Credit: State Archives of Florida.

AMENDMENT 11: property rights; removal of obsolete provision; criminal statutes

BALLOT SUMMARY: “Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.”

What it’s about:

Amendment 11 is thought of as a “housekeeping” Amendment because, among other things, it deletes antiquated language from the Constitution. However, since it “bundles” multiple topics into one ballot measure, voters have only one yes or no vote on all three provisions. The Amendment would:

  1. Remove the Legislature’s ability to regulate property owned by non-citizens.

This provision in Amendment 11 would remove current wording in the Constitution that guarantees property rights to everyone except  “aliens ineligible for citizenship may be regulated or prohibited by law.”

Some groups argue that this edit to the state Constitution is a fix of the “Alien Land Laws” that targeted Asians and Asian-Americans in the early 1900s.

  1. Affect how defendants are prosecuted in criminal cases.

This provision in Amendment 11 would affect whether people charged with a crime are prosecuted under the laws that were in effect at the time of their crime, or if they can be prosecuted under new laws. In some cases, these new laws may be more lenient, so courts could decide to give lighter sentences.

The League of Women Voters of Florida says this provision would “ensure that criminal defendants are prosecuted under the most current laws on the books.”

However, if a law is repealed altogether, a defendant would not avoid being prosecuted and would be tried under the original law.

  1. Delete language from the Constitution about a high-speed railway that was supposed to be under construction by November 2003.

In 2000, voters approved a Constitutional Amendment for a high-speed railway to be built across the state. In 2004, voters overturned the Amendment and the Constitution was never updated. This provision in Amendment 11 would just update the state’s Constitution.

Who’s for it:

Florida Chamber of Commerce, The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida

Who’s against it:

A group called Save My Constitution made up of former lawmakers opposes all the proposed Constitution Revision Commission Amendments on the November ballot.

Other key points:

The League of Women Voters of Florida has no position on the Amendment. The League does note that “although we think that removing obsolete language is a good thing, there is a lot of other obsolete language that is not being addressed.”

The ACLU of Florida supports Amendment 11 because it deletes what the group calls an “unconstitutional, anti-immigrant provision” from the state Constitution, and would “address mass incarceration by allowing criminal justice reforms to apply retroactively.”

Amendment 11 needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.

About this Florida Phoenix series: Florida voters could face a whopping twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments cover a wild ride of subjects, including complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and even whether Florida should ban vaping in public places. 

Even more challenging is that some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters might be forced to vote for a thing they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Plus, three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court.)

It’s confusing, and the Phoenix is going to try in the coming days to briefly lay out all these amendments for you, explain what they will do, and tell you who supports it and who opposes it.  

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