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    Senate panel okays resolution to restore felons' voting rights

    By LUCY MORGAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2001


    TALLAHASSEE -- Florida voters would determine whether felons could regain the right to vote, under a resolution approved Wednesday in a state Senate committee.

    The resolution, similar to one approved in a House committee last week, is accompanied by a bill that would establish rules for restoring voting rights to offenders who have completed their sentences and paid restitution and court costs.

    The bills and resolutions must be approved by the House and Senate before going to voters.

    The resolution, making necessary changes in the state Constitution, does not need approval from the governor and would go before voters in 2002.

    After the vote, Bush said he has not reviewed the legislation but generally supports making it easier for felons to regain voting rights.

    Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, the chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, cast the only vote against it. "I didn't begin a lot of debate on it, because I can read the tea leaves," he said..

    He said he thinks the issue, a priority for black legislators, has the blessings of Senate President John McKay and will be approved this year.

    Posey said he has questions about restoring the vote to felons. The Senate version of the bill would restore the rights of a felon convicted of a violent crime five years after he or she has completed a prison sentence and paid restitution and court costs. Other felons would have to wait a year.

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