Florida voters will have 12 constitutional amendments to decide in the General Election. Amendment 8 was removed from the ballot by the courts. The remaining measures retain their original numbering. My first consideration in each of these is whether or not they belong in the constitution. We have decided to legislate by amendment in far too many cases. Here is how and why I voted on these amendments.
AMENDMENT 1- Increases non-school homestead property tax exemptions for certain homes.
MY VOTE: YES- we see tax increases in many other areas and any time we can limit the level of taxation by government on our homes we should do so.
AMENDMENT 2- Maintains the limit on government raising taxes on non-homestead property.
MY VOTE: YES- and for the same reasons. We have one candidate for governor already looking to raise business taxes and this would be one avenue to do so.
AMENDMENT 3- Requires voter approval for gambling expansion.
MY VOTE: NO- gambling and its regulation is largely a legislative issue and it’s up to them and the governor to craft the agreements that allow this industry to operate here. This measure would change our form of government on this one issue from a republic to a direct democracy.
AMENDMENT 4- Requires automatically restoring the voting rights of felons once their sentence and any supervision are completed. It exempts murderers and sex offenders from this provision.
MY VOTE: NO- while I am not opposed to a reformed criminal getting his rights restored, there is a process for this to happen. The courts have already ordered reforms in this regard and the exemptions listed here do not make sense. Why are murderers and sex offenders exempt when corrupt elected or appointed officials are not? Have they not shown potentially more contempt for the right they will automatically receive than the first category? What about embezzlers who have stolen from innocent people or armed robbers not also exempt from automatic restoration? This measure is not well thought out and deserves to be turned back by the voters.
AMENDMENT 5- Requires a supermajority of both houses of the legislature for an authorization, increase or implementation of a tax or fee.
MY VOTE: YES: It raises the bar for increasing or creating state taxes. It could result in more reasonable use of current resources and limit expansion of services. With the possibility that Andrew Gillum could become governor, it is also a hedge against the tax increases he has already stated he would increase or implement.
AMENDMENT 6- Places crime victim rights in the constitution and makes adjustments to the judiciary such as limiting resources for making court decisions from administrative or other sources and raises the retirement age for judges.
MY VOTE- NO: While judicial adjustments are constitutional in nature, the crime victim provisions can be made in the legislature and would likely have more impact from there. This measure does not fund certain requirements it would impose on the courts of monitoring victim impact and the court system is already overburdened and underfunded. It would appear to me the marketing of this amendment belies the nature of the judicial portions. The focus on victim rights seems to be hiding the real intent. These should not have been bundled and earn a no vote for that reason alone.
AMENDMENT 7- Grants death benefits and waiver of some education expenses to “certain survivors” of “certain” first responders and military members who die in performance of their duties. Also requires a supermajority vote of university board of governors or trustees to raise fees and codifies the state college system and structure.
MY VOTE: NO- Again the bundling of the issues makes no sense and is an excuse to put something to draw votes in with measures that may not draw a positive vote. First Responders and military members know the risks and responsibilities and the benefits when they sign up for the duty. There are charitable organizations that provide similar benefits to survivors.
AMENDMENT 8- Was struck from the ballot by the Supreme Court.
AMENDMENT 9: prohibits offshore oil and gas drilling and vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces.
MY VOTE: NO- Both are legislative issues and have no business in the constitution. Again bundling is a problem as these unrelated issues would deserve to stand on their own.
AMENDMENT 10: Requires the state to maintain a department of veterans’ affairs; ensures that constitutional officers are elected in each county as opposed to some counties who appoint all or some of these officials; moves the legislative session to January of each year.
MY VOTE: YES- It brings consistency across the state for Sheriffs, Supervisors of Elections and other “constitutional” offices. This may be the most constitutional of the amendments on the ballot. Consistency of the legislative session year to year is a positive.
AMENDMENT 11: Removes prohibition of property ownership for people ineligible to become citizens; addresses conflicting language on high speed rail; clarifies language on prosecution of crime after a law is repealed.
MY VOTE: NO- each of these may fit under the heading of a cleanup measure, but the issues are important enough to be considered on its own.
AMENDMENT 12: Expands restrictions on lobbying by current and former elected officials and others; prohibits abuse of position by elected and appointed officials for personal gain.
MY VOTE: NO- while each has merit, they are also matters of law and not of the constitution. Let the legislature take these matters up in session.
AMENDMENT 13: Phases out commercial dog racing and wagering on live racing by the end of 2020.
MY VOTE: NO- again, this issue is legislative and should be handled in the legislative session. With the state in a positive employment setting, creating new unemployed with an uncertain political direction from Tallahassee is not a good idea.