Florida Amendments 2018

Part 2 of my vote 2018, specifically as relate to Florida Amendments. 

I don’t mind if you disagree with my Radical Centrist approach, I do care if you don’t vote. 

Vote your conscience, just please vote. If this serves as nothing more than to inspire some of you to vote so you can cancel mine out, that’s fine with me.  If this gives you a perspective that you hadn’t considered and want to agree with me, all the better. 

Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies. The amendment shall take effect January 1, 2019.

While I agree that lower taxes provide a stimulative effect on an economy, taxes are also where authorities raise money to meet the needs of their immediate constituencies. Any statewide limit on a locality’s ability to tax is an assault on that community’s autonomy. Any statewide initiatives that limit a locality’s ability to raise money to pay for the needs of that specific community is an incursion upon the most basic tenets of our Federal system. This is a Tallahassee power (and money) grab. Schools and roads and parks and police and community centers, where real people really live and learn and interact, should be funded by their communities in ways that those communities approve of. The market and foot-voting solve this issue and will keep taxes in check. 

Limitations on Property Tax Assessments
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on specified nonhomestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect January 1, 2019.

As with Amendment 1, this is an assault on local autonomy. This amendment is especially egregious in its regressiveness and bastardization of what homestead protections are supposed to be: protection for homeowners who live in their home and are active in their communities. By extending the homestead-like rights to non-homestead properties, the requirement of participation in and responsibility for the local community is undermined. This favors speculators and special interests over communities while, at the same time, reducing a locality’s ability to raise funds to support local initiatives and needs. 

Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
My Position: YES

Official Ballot Summary: This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.

Really, this is why we send representatives to Tallahassee. They should make these decisions and we should be able to put a check on their good or bad decisions by sending them back or not. Given the amount of money that the interests who want to bring gambling to the state, there will be billions spent. Whether it’s spent buying statewide politicians or persuading the general electorate (and buying local politicians instead), it will lead to corruption and cronyism. The benefit to putting it to the voters is that it will be slower because of the complicated process of organizing a ballot initiative and supporting it. Once the gambling genie is out of its bottle, it will lead to a fundamental change to the culture of the state. The more slowly that happens, in my opinion, the better. 

Voting Restoration Amendment
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary: This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.

We currently have a process for reinstating rights. It includes individual review by a qualified panel. It is slow and laborious and sometimes unfairly slow. While I believe in second chances, this is a slap in the face of victims (and communities) whose covenanted freedom from fear was originally broken. Rights restoration should not be automatic, but it should also not be impossible. I acknowledge that Florida, as only one of four states that still clings to this outdated process, needs to reappraise it. State leadership, like under Charlie Crist, can make the process faster as it deems necessary without making it part of the Constitution. This approach can be used as an issue to be addressed during normal elections for governor and legislators.  I don’t favor the amendment as it’s written, but do want to see change in the process. I favor a more expedited process of review (and the necessary resource allocations to make that happen) that would balance second chances with victims’ rights. I believe in the spirit of this proposal and think that it can be enacted within the existing constitutional framework by accountable politicians. As written, and as an amendment, it is overly ambitious in its breadth.

Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary:  Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district.

As much as I hate taxes as a general drag on economic activity, I also despise forcing long-term rules to assist short-term political machinations. Here, the Republicans, fearing that their current domination of the state houses is in jeopardy, are looking to stack the rules so that fair and reasonable attempts to keep a balanced budget in the face of growing spending needs are curbed. This, to me, is tantamount to codifying a filibuster (a rule of order) or gerrymandering (another way to stack votes unfairly in favor of those in power) in the Constitution.

Rights of Crime Victims; Judges
My Position: YES

Official Ballot Summary:  Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.

For most of these “stacked” amendments, I’m voting NO unless I fully agree with both pieces. I am fundamentally opposed to the idea of “stacking” unrelated amendments. It’s a political trick akin to pork-barreling —which is a fine way for legislators to trade votes and reach compromises—which is generally inappropriate at this level of ballot initiative. In this case, I agree with number one because I am a strong proponent of victims’ rights. I also agree that issues relating to the makeup of the states judiciary is rightly a Constitutional issue. So, YES, overall. 

First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary:  Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.

YES on first part. NO on second. So NO on this stacked amendment. 

Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
My Position: NO 

Official Ballot Summary:  Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor-generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.

NO. It’s a ridiculous stack and the individual parts can be achieved legislatively under the current Constitution. 

State and Local Government Structure and Operation
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary:  Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even- numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.

NO. It’s another bad stack. Probably YES on the first, independently. The second is another political power grab that, when it’s no longer convenient, will be invoked to undermine localities’ autonomy. 

Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary:  Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.

Probably YES on part’s one and two of the stack. Probably NO on part three of the stack. Bring them back individually, and we can address them based on their individual merits. 

Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary:  Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.

This is a tough one. I think lobbyists who take advantage of connections and power accrued while in office are, well, “swampy,” at best. Worse still are those who get elected as nothing more than stepping stones to lucrative lobbying careers. At the same time, we have term limits. We would prefer that our politicians do short stints as politicians and return to private life as good citizens and community leaders. Lobbyists, especially those with legislative experience, can become agents for positive change as subject matter experts on valuable issues who also know how to maneuver through the halls of the statehouse to get good things done. I generally don’t like lobbyists, but am not sure that limiting the most qualified people from becoming lobbyists is fair either. 

Ends Dog Racing
My Position: NO

Official Ballot Summary:  Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.


Dog racing is cruel and we, as humane beings, will come to realize this eventually. Most dog tracks only exist as legal fronts for other kinds of gambling: a back door to other types of gambling that is otherwise highly regulated. It’s a business model that’s already fading away. It doesn’t belong in the Constitution. If the free market doesn’t do away with it,  this can be achieved by legislative statute. 


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