Florida House passes bill requiring felons to pay court fees before voting

The Florida House on Wednesday passed a bill that would require felons to pay all court fees and costs in addition to restitution before becoming eligible to vote. 

The measure, which would significantly curtail a state constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to felons who have been released from prison, passed 71-45 along party lines, according to The Miami Herald


The newspaper noted that measure's approval would likely set up a dispute between Florida's lower chamber and the state Senate. 

The Senate version of the bill enforcing Amendment 4 is only requiring felons to pay restitution, as long as the court fees and fines have been converted to a civil lien. The measure has yet to be heard by the Senate. 

The bill's passage on Wednesday comes months after Florida voters approved an amendment automatically restoring voting rights to approximately 1.5 million felons in the state.

Former offenders who have completed “all terms of their sentence including parole or probation” had their voting rights automatically restored in January. The legislation does not apply to Floridians convicted of murder or sexual offenses, however. 

Those cases will reportedly be considered individually by the state’s Clemency Review Board. 

The new measure to curb the rights is facing criticism from Democratic lawmakers in Florida, as well as on the national stage. State Rep. Adam Hattersley (D) described the House bill as a "blatantly unconstitutional" poll tax after the measure was approved by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee in March. 

Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerOfficials brace for second Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration Booker: It would be 'constitutionally dangerous' not to conduct full Trump impeachment trial MORE (D-N.J.), a 2020 presidential candidate, slammed the bill as a "poll tax" in a tweet on Wednesday.

State Rep. James Grant (R), the bill's sponsor, has contended that the measure clarifies the ballot proposal that voters supported last November. He's also argued that Amendment 4 advocates testified before the Supreme Court that fees and fines are a part of a sentence, according to The Tallahassee Democrat.