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Cannon: Lawmakers have 'unqualified power' to propose constitutional amendments

Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon opened his two-year term this morning with tough words for the Florida Supreme Court, calling the state's highest judicial body one of the "threats to freedom."

Cannon says state lawmakers have the "unqualified power" to put constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot. One thing to keep in mind here is that Cannon was the House point man for then-Speaker Marco Rubio in his 2007 property tax revolution, which included one constitutional amendment being struck down by the Supreme Court and ended with Rubio, Cannon and the rest of House Republican leadership being forced to accept a much less ambitious change crafted by Gov. Charlie Crist and GOP Sens. Ken Pruitt and Dan Webster.

Fast forward back to today.

The state Supreme Court clearly believes that state law puts some qualifications on the legislature's ability to write ballot questions. The court has struck down several amendments citing state statute 101.161(6), which begins with a 77-word sentence that includes this phrase: "the substance of such amendment or other public measure shall be printed in clear and unambiguous language."

Cannon said his pointed speech, which he delivered with Chief Justice Charles Canady seated 50 feet away, was meant to open a "dialogue about how we can support them in fulfilling their role and they can support us in fulfilling our role.

"I don't think it foreshadows anything," Cannon told reporters.

Cannon would not bite on questions about whether he was interested in impeaching judges, cutting the judicial branch's budget or writing a new law to exempt the Legislature from the "clear and unambiguous language" requirement.

"The point is when the branches do each other's duties, that creates problems," Cannon said. "The first thing we've begun, which is healthy, is a dialogue in terms of trying to figure out among the justices and members of the appellate courts where those lines are."