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Teachers union aims to block attempt to lift ban on tax money for religious organizations

The Florida Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, tomorrow will announce a lawsuit aimed at blocking a constitutional amendment from the 2012 statewide ballot that would repeal the so-called Blaine Amendment, the Times/Herald has learned.

And since we're jumping the gun, let's go even further: The FEA suit, if successful, would trigger another measure approved by the Legislature this year. Frustrated with the state's highest court removing amendments because of misleading ballot language, lawmakers set up a process that gives them a second bite at the apple by requiring the attorney general fix any problems.

The Blaine Amendment has been in the cross-hairs of Republicans since the Florida Supreme Court halted then-Gov. Jeb Bush's so-called opportunity scholarship program, the nation's first statewide school vouchers.

After failed attempts in recent years, the Republican-controlled Legislature used its super-majority this year to muscle the amendment on to the ballot saying the long-standing ban on the public funding of religious organizations discriminates against soup kitchens and other charities.

But opponents say the change would open the door for the state to restart a school voucher program that paid to send students to parochial schools.

The constitutional amendment passed 81-35 in the House and 26-10 in the Senate. It would need 60 percent approval from voters.

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