House panel approves Florida felon voting rights restoration bill despite advocates' opposition

Poor ex-offenders may have difficulty paying fees, advocates say

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Advocates who pushed for a constitutional amendment to restore most Florida felon's voting rights are opposing a bill that sets terms for restoration.

The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved a bill Tuesday on a 10-5 vote that defines what it means to complete a sentence. Republicans favored the bill while only Democrats opposed it.

Voters approved a ballot question in November that lets ex-felons vote after completing their sentences. Advocates say the bill's language is too restrictive, partly because it requires all civil fines and court costs to be paid before a sentence can be completed.

They said poor ex-offenders may have difficulty paying.

Republican Rep. James Grant said the bill reflects the same conditions lawyers used while explaining the ballot question language to the state Supreme Court.

The complete hearing and testimony is available on here. The bill discussion begins 50 minutes into the hearing.