Monthly Archives: October, 2018

My Views on the Amendments to the Florida State Constitution

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The state of Florida has a provision by which laws can be added to the books by creating amendments to the state constitution that are voted on by the electorate. This is not without controversy as special interest groups will try to get an amendment passed by playing on emotions and taking advantage of the general population’s ignorance on a subject. Such was the case several years ago, when animal rights activist pushed through an amendment banning birthing cages for pregnant sows. Other times amendments are necessary to restrict the power of our elected officials, because there is a widespread mistrust in the ability of our elected officials to do the right thing no matter which party they represent. Such is the case with some of the amendments presented here. This election cycle there are twelve proposed amendments on the ballot which is why this post is so long.  I am not an expert in legalese, this is my understanding of what these bills mean. In the interest of inspiring my readers to think for themselves, I have given the reasons why I am voting the way I am, along with some valid reasons why you may vote differently. If you want to see the exact wording of the proposed amendments and get eyestrain and a headache in the process (you’re welcome) I encourage you to check out this website. https://dos.myflorida.com/media/699824/constitutional-amendments-2018-general-election-english.pdf

AMENDMENT 1: INCREASED HOMESTEAD PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION
Placed on ballot by State Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT.
It will provide many middle-class homeowners with a tax break. It will force local governments to be fiscally responsible and to find other sources of revenue such as user fees and sales taxes. These alternate sources of funding are fairer than property taxes because they spread the burden to those who actually use the services, and to all residents and visitors of a community, including renters and temporary residents.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE NO.
This law will decrease property tax revenue to local governments. You may feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.

AMENDMENT 2: LIMITATIONS ON PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENTS
Placed on ballot by State Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT
This would extend an already existing tax break due to expire in 2019. At first I was against this amendment but I have since changed my mind (we women can do that you know). Letting the tax break expire, would make property taxed go up for small business owners and landlords.  The increase would then be passed on to renters and would make rents prohibitively  high for the people who can least afford expensive rents.  There is already a shortage of affordable rental properties and this would make it worse. It would hurt small business owners making it harder for them to hire and expand.I know it is very Liberal of me to oppose a tax break, but here is my justification. First of all,  (FYI, I don’t believe luxury items should be subject to special taxes either). From what I could see, if the existing exemption expires, there is nothing in existing law that would prohibit local governments from implementing their own tax incentives to commercial entities to entice them to move into their territory, or to stay. BTW, neither amendment 1 or 2 affect school tax assessments.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE NO                                                                                                 You may feel that since this amendment does not apply to homestead exemptions it is not a necessary tax break. It applies to commercial properties and second homes. You may feel the ownership of secondary homes or vacation properties is a luxury and it seems unethical to provide a tax break for luxury items. It will decrease the revenue for local governments

 

AMENDMENT 3: VOTER CONTROL OF GAMBLING IN FLORIDA
Placed on ballot by citizen’s initiative
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT.
I’m kind of neutral when it comes to gambling. I can see both the pros and cons. This amendment will put the control of casino gambling in the hands of the voters, where it should be, instead of deep pocketed lobbyists. Usually I feel most laws should be enacted by the Legislature, but casino gambling is a very divisive subject and the lobby for it is very well-funded, making the corruption of our representative more likely. Basically, I don’t think they can be trusted to uphold the will of the people on this one.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE NO.
You would enjoy having a casino closer to home. It could bring revenue to local government entities possibly lowering taxes. You may feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.

AMENDMENT 4: VOTING RESTORATION AMENDMENT
Placed on ballot by citizen’s initiative
I VOTE NO ON THIS AMENDMENT
This amendment would restore voting rights to nonviolent former felons. While I support giving not violent felons their voting rights back, the support of this bill by far-left groups such as the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, make me suspicious of its true motives. This law is more about increasing the voting base of the Democratic Party than fairness. In a different political climate, I might have been in favor of this.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE YES.
You feel it is unfair to restrict the voting rights of nonviolent offenders after they have paid their debt to society.

AMENDMENT 5: SUPERMAJORITY VOTE REQUIRED TO IMPOSE, AUTHORIZE, OR RAISE STATE TAXES OR FEES
Placed on ballot by Florida Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT
This bill would require a two-thirds majority of the legislature to pass bills that would increase state taxes or fees. This law would force the Legislature to be more responsible fiscally. In the unfortunate likelihood that Andrew Gillum becomes governor, making it harder to raise taxes or fund entitlement programs will become imperative. This law is opposed by the far left, Southern Poverty Law Center.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE NO
This bill may make it difficult for the State Legislature to raise needed revenue. You feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.

AMENDMENT 6: RIGHTS OF CRIME VICTIMS; JUDGES
Placed on ballot by Constitutional Revision Commission appointed by the State Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT
This is the first of several bundled bills on this ballot. That would make me likely to vote no on all of them, but since I actually support each separate provision in this bill, I am in favor of it. This bill protects the rights and safety of crime victims. Increases the mandatory retirement age of judges and prohibits judges from deferring to government agencies to interpret the law. I suggest that you read the complete wording that enumerates all the rights of victims here, https://dos.myflorida.com/media/699824/constitutional-amendments-2018-general-election-english.pdf
as it is too lengthy to explain in detail. I don’t think a competent judge is going to become incompetent just because he is five years older, and it is the job of judges to interpret the law, not non-judicial government agencies. This amendment is opposed by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center which is a good reason to support it.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE NO
You think it is stupid to bundle unrelated items into one amendment in order to confuse voters and ensure the passage of unpopular portions of a bill. You feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.
You think 75 is too old to be a judge. You think that judges should not be restricted on the resources they use to interpret the law.

AMENDMENT 7: FIRST RESPONDER AND MILITARY MEMBER SURVIVOR BENEFITS; PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
Placed on ballot by Constitutional Revision Commission appointed by the State Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT
This is another bundled amendment, but since I support all the provisions in it, I support it. This bill would grant death benefits and educational expense wavers to survivors of first responders and military members killed in the line of duty. It also requires a supermajority vote by university trustees and board of governors to impose fees. It also established the state college system as a constitutional entity. I support giving benefits to first responder survivors. I admit, that as a spouse of a first responder and retired Air Force Master Sergeant, I may be a bit biased, but I feel that if the tax payers of the state of Florida approve this bill, it shows that they are grateful to the deceased and their surviving families for their sacrifice and service. I hope and pray that I will never have to be a recipient of that gratitude. Providing governance and structure to the state college system will ensure consistency and making it more difficult to raise fees will help to make higher education more affordable. I do wish however that the bill applied to tuition as well as fees.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE NO
You feel that survivors’ benefits for military families at the state level are redundant since the federal government already pays them. You feel that survivors’ benefits for first responders creates another entitlement program. You feel that the control of state colleges should remain at the local level. You think it is stupid to bundle unrelated items into one amendment in order to confuse voters and insure the passage of unpopular portions of a bill. You feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.

AMENDMENT 8:
The Florida State Supreme Court determined that this amendment did not qualify for ballot.
(though they appear on the ballot, the other “bundled” amendments may suffer the same fate)

AMENDMENT 9: PROHIBITS OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS DRILLING; PROHIBITS VAPING IN ENCLOSED INDOOR WORKPLACES
Placed on ballot by Constitutional Revision Commission appointed by the State Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT
This amendment prohibits oil and gas drilling in state-owned waters, and it prohibits vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces. First of all, I hate vaping. While at present there is no conclusive evidence that vaping is as harmful as cigarette smoking, there is no evidence that it isn’t, either. Most of the juices smell sickening sweet, and I would hate to be sitting next to someone at a restaurant or sporting event who’s puffing that stinky white steam my way. Still, I don’t think a constitutional amendment was the way to go here. Until there is conclusive evidence of the harm of second-hand vapor (like there is with cigarettes), vaping restrictions should be left up to local governments. Nevertheless, because I strongly support the other provision in this amendment, I will vote yes on it. I am not inherently anti oil company or anti drilling. I believe in energy independence as a matter of national security, and there should be, with reasonable restrictions, drilling on public lands. While all oil spills incur varying degrees of environmental damage, spills in the ocean or inland waterways are especially devastating. A spill off the Florida coast, or one of its rivers or lakes would take a nearly incalculable toll on the environment and the economy of the state. It has been my observation that the big oil companies are either unable or unwilling to devote the necessary resources to develop more effective ways to mitigate the damaged caused by large-scale oil spills. The responses always seem to be too little and too late to stop massive destruction. Therefore, until the oil companies show a greater willingness to prevent and mitigate spills, I oppose drilling in those places. At first this might seem to be a liberal stance, but as a Christian, I believe that we have a divine responsibility to be good stewards of this earth G-d blessed us with. Good stewardship is a decidedly conservative attitude, but that is a subject for another blog post.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE NO
You believe that offshore drilling will lead to lower fuel prices and increased energy independence. You believe that offshore drilling will bring more jobs to the state and be a boon to the economy. You own stock in or are employed by an oil company. You enjoy vaping in public places and want to continue to do so. You think it is stupid to bundle unrelated items into one amendment in order to confuse voters and ensure the passage of unpopular portions of a bill. You feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.

AMENDMENT 10: STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE AND OPERATION
Placed on ballot by Constitutional Revision Commission appointed by the State Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT
This amendment makes a state Department of Veteran’s Affairs a constitutional requirement.
It creates an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the Department of Law Enforcement. It ensures the election in all Florida counties of Sheriffs, Property Appraisers, Supervisors of Elections, Tax Collectors, and Clerks of Court, and removes the counties’ ability to abolish, change the term or transfer the duties of these elected offices. This is another bill with too many unrelated moving parts. I have some mixed feelings about the issues in this bill. Florida already has a Department of Veteran’s Affairs and I do not oppose making it permanent. I don’t necessarily oppose creating an Office of Domestic Security, though there will be the issue of how to fund it. I support preserving the rights of county citizens to vote for the various county offices, rather than have them appointed by the powers that be.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO VOTE NO
The amendment doesn’t specify how to fund the Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism. The amendment removes the ability of smaller counties to consolidate elected offices. You think it is stupid to bundle unrelated items into one amendment in order to confuse voters and ensure the passage of unpopular portions of a bill. You feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.

AMENDMENT 11: PROPERTY RIGHTS; REMOVAL OF OBSOLETE PROVISION; CRIMINAL STATUTES
Placed on ballot by Constitutional Revision Commission appointed by the State Legislature
I STILL HAVE MIXED FEELING ABOUT THIS ONE. I WILL PROBABLY VOTE NO.
This amendment repeals the ban on owning property by persons ineligible to become citizens and, removes wording for a repealed constitutional requirement for high-speed rail systems. This bill will mean that suspects will be prosecuted under the new provisions of a law if the law has been changed before the suspect is brought to trial. It allows for the prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute. I feel that the ban on aliens owning property should remain. I think the states should have the right to restrict the ownership of real property by those who for whatever reason are ineligible for citizenship. I agree with removing the wording for the requirement for high-speed rail systems. This requirement has been repealed and never should have been an amendment in the first place. It seems fair to me that if the law changes before you are brought to trial, that you be tried under the new provisions. However, this amendment is supported by the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center and that makes me suspicious of it.
WHY YOU MAY VOTE YES
You feel that ownership of real property should not be restricted. You feel the wording removing the requirement for high-speed rail should be removed. You think it is stupid to bundle unrelated items into one amendment in order to confuse voters and ensure the passage of unpopular portions of a bill. You feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.

AMENDMENT 12: LOBBYING AND ABUSE OF OFFICE BY PUBLIC OFFICERS
Placed on ballot by Constitutional Revision Commission appointed by the State Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT
This amendment restricts public officers from serving as paid lobbyist and further restricts former public officers from serving as paid lobbyists until 6 years after leaving office. It prohibits pubic officials from using their office for personal gain. This amendment helps to ensure that public officials remain accountable to the people who elect them, not special interest groups who pay them to lobby.
WHY YOU MAY VOTE NO
You feel that 6 years is too long for an official to be prohibited from lobbying after leaving office. You feel that state laws should only be enacted by the State Legislature, not by amendments to the state constitution.

AMENDMENT 13: ENDS DOG RACING
Placed on ballot by Constitutional Revision Commission appointed by the State Legislature
I VOTE YES ON THIS AMENDMENT
This is a tricky one. This amendment will end by 2020, dog racing connected with wagering. When I think of the kind of people who would enjoy gambling on a dog race, I’m reminded of the kind of people who enjoy wagering on cock fights or dog fights. Dog racing is cruel. The dogs suffer frequent serious injuries and are kept in inhumane conditions. The revenues dog racing brings in are not sufficient justification for this kind of activity.
WHY YOU MAY VOTE NO Many people feel that this phrase in the amendment”-The humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.”, leaves an open door for animal rights groups to argue that hunting, fishing, horse-racing, rodeos, basically anything the group feels is cruel, could be declared unconstitutional.  I don’t see it that way.  I see that phrase as an explanation as to why dog racing is cruel.

 

 

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