Constitutional interpretation bill ready for full House vote April 30, 2006 Regular News Constitutional interpretation bill ready for full House vote Mark D. Killian Managing Editor A proposed constitutional amendment directing how the Florida Constitution should be interpreted has cleared its final committee and is headed for the House floor.The House Justice Council voted 9-2 April 10 to move HJR 7143, which sponsor Rep. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, says is meant to correct a mistake in constitutional interpretation the Supreme Court made in Bush v. Holmes, (case no. SC04-2323) on school vouchers.The measure proposes an amendment to §12, Art. X of the Florida Constitution to revise rules of construction to be used when interpreting the extent of political power vested in the legislative branch to provide that the expression of one thing does not imply the exclusion of another.“This is extremely important with respect to the balance of power between the legislative branch and the other branches of government,” Simmons said.In Holmes, the court said the constitutional provision requiring the legislature to provide a free, uniform, and high-quality system of public education precluded the state’s opportunity scholarship program, which uses public money to send children to private schools.In part, the court majority said its decision was based on expressio unius est exclusio alterius, or “the expression of one thing implies the exclusion of another.” But Simmons said the majority erred in that interpretation, and he agrees with the two dissenting justices who said the legislature had the authority to seek alternatives beyond public schools for educating the state’s children.Most state courts, he said, severely limit the use of the expressio unius doctrine and two outright said it should never be applied.Rep. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, asked if the resolution is designed to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling in Homes. Simmons said no and reiterated that he has the utmost respect for the court.“This deals with the proper interpretation of the Florida Constitution and there are numerous places in the Florida Constitution where the legislature is directed or authorized to do something and that should not be used as some kind of false interpretive method of saying the legislature is somehow precluded from dealing with the myriad of problems that confront us,” Simmons said, adding that this measure is in no way trying to “back door” a different result in the voucher case. “This is prospective, not an attempt to be retrospective.”Joyner said she found it odd that in her six years in the legislature it has always been the mantra of the Republican leadership that the courts should strictly construe the construction and that this bill “opens the door to creativity and invites activism by judges.”“On one hand we want strict construction and other the other hand you want the judiciary to be creative when it comes to school vouchers and we can’t have it both ways,” Joyner said. “If we want to address school vouchers, then why don’t we attempt to craft legislation that would do what you want done, but not do it by thwarting the independence of the judiciary?”She said if the resolution reaches the ballot the public will have no idea that it pertains to school vouchers. Joyner also warned of unintended consequences.“It may suit the purpose today of saving vouchers, but we could end up giving the courts more power on interpreting legislative actions and I’m sure that is not what you intend to do,” Joyner said.