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2001 Opinions

Date:   August 17, 2001
Prepared By:   James A. Robinson
Phone:   (850) 488-7707
Suncom:   278-7707
Opinion No.:   01-12A
Staff Contact:   None
TO: Charlie Crist, Commissioner of Education
FROM: James A. Robinson, General Counsel
SUBJECT: Discretionary Lottery Fund Proviso
RE: Opinion 01-12

QUESTION PRESENTED: Absent evidence to the contrary, may you assume school districts are in compliance with Section 106.15(4), F.S., and proceed on that assumption to distribute discretionary lottery funds?


DISCUSSION: Commisioner, as you know, in line item 4A, Section 1, of the General Appropriations Act passed by the 2001 Legislature, Chapter 2001-253, Laws of Florida, (Education Enhancement "Lottery" Trust Fund) the Legislature directed you to "withhold the distribution of discretionary lottery funds from any school district which fails to comply with the provisions of s. 106.15, F.S."

Section 106.15(4), F.S., prohibits making, soliciting, or knowingly accepting "any political contribution in a building owned by a governmental entity." In my memorandum to the School District Superintendents and School Board Attorneys dated August 6, 2001, I stated my opinion that such prohibition extends to school district facilities, and includes contributions to political action committees and committees of continuous existence made via payroll deduction.

Article IV, Section (4)(g), Florida Constitution, states that, "The commissioner of education shall supervise the public education system in the manner prescribed by law." As the Legislature has "prescribed by law" that you "shall withhold the distribution of discretionary lottery funds from any school district which fails to comply with the provisions of s. 106.15, F.S.," you are responsible for implementing that legislative direction.

It is long-standing Florida law that a statute is prima facie valid and that every act of the Legislature is presumptively valid and constitutional. See e.g., Florida Department of Education v. Glasser, 622 So.2d 944 (Fla. 1993); Winter Haven v. A.M. Klemm & Son, 181 So. 153, rehearing denied 182 So. 841 (Fla 1938); State ex rel. Landis v. Prevatt, 148 So. 578 (Fla. 1933); Gray v. Central Florida Lumber Company, 140 So. 320 (Fla. 1932).

Unless the Legislature changes, or the courts overturn, the provisions of Section 106.15, Florida Statutes, or the proviso, you are proceeding as you should in conditioning disbursement of discretionary lottery dollars on the school districts' compliance with Section 106.15, Florida Statutes. However, the proviso language does not require the districts to demonstrate compliance as a condition precedent to receipt of payment. In other words, there is no requirement that you presume the districts to be in violation of Section 106.15, Florida Statutes. Thus, you would be acting within your sound discretion, and in accordance with the proviso language, to allow disbursements to the districts so long as there is no evidence of noncompliance.

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