BY THE FLORIDA COURIER EDITORIAL STAFF
The amendments that you will see on this year’s ballot are proposed changes to the Florida Constitution.
Our state constitution – similar to the U.S Constitution – establishes rules and basic rights. It covers freedoms such as religion, speech, press, assemblage, work and bearing of arms.
There are four ways to amend Florida’s constitution. Two involve regular studies by commissions convened every 10 and 20 years, respectively.
Individual citizens can amend the Constitution by getting thousands of signatures and going through an approval process. The Florida Legislature can also amend the Constitution by the vote of 3/5 of each of the House and the Senate.
It’s all politics
All you need to know about this year’s 11 amendments is that all of them came from the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature. None came from citizens, and none came from commissions after public meetings, diligent research, and years of study.
All involve political posturing, including an impotent slap against Obamacare (Amendment 1); special tax treatment for the elderly, veterans, and the widows of first responders (Amendments 2, 9, and 11); a tax break ‘payback’ to small business owners, who generally support Republican candidates (Amendment 10); an attempt to cut future government revenues so that Florida’s government will eventually be “small enough to drown in a bathtub,” (Amendments 3 and 4).
What else? There’s an attempt to control ‘unruly’ Florida Supreme Court justices who won’t always rule their way (Amendment 5); a move to make it easier to eventually ban abortions in Florida (Amendment 6); a bow to conservative Christians (Amendment 8); and something too minor to deal with (Amendment 12).
We’ll take them in numerical order and list the specific reasons we are against them all.
Amendment 1: Florida led the legal fight of the states against Obamacare. The GOP-dominated state legislature just couldn’t stand the fact that a conservative U.S. Supreme Court generally approved Obamacare. This amendment is the Florida GOP’s way of giving a collective middle finger to both the U.S. Supreme Court and President Obama. It won’t change a thing; Obamacare will still be the law in Florida.
Amendment 2 would give special treatment to veterans who are relatively new residents in Florida, but it will cost local governments millions of dollars of tax revenue that they could ill afford to lose.
Amendment 3 would limit the way revenue comes into the state government, limiting flexibility for future legislatures. This will be a way Republicans could hamstring future legislatures which may be dominated by Democrats, forcing them to shrink government expenditures to “stay legal” if this amendment is passed.
Amendment 4 would expand tax breaks to property owners and to first-time homebuyers, but at the cost of more than $1 billion over three years, which would result in a cut in state services including public education services. Florida cannot afford this right now.
Amendment 5 is an attempt to hijack the Florida Supreme Court, which has refused to go along with many of the Florida Legislatures’ blatant and illegal attempts to cut, privatize or outsource government services and kill unions.
This is a fail safe device in case the three state Supreme Court justices targeted for defeat by the Republican Party of Florida are retained by statewide vote.
Amendment 6 will take away a woman’s right to privacy given to her under the Florida Constitution if she seeks an abortion. It’s much too expansive. If the issue is whether parents can prevent teenage girls from getting abortions without parental consent, then place that specific proposal on the ballot.
Amendment 8 is a deceptively named “Religious Freedom” provision that plays on emotions, and pokes a hole in the wall between church and state. It would be a recipe for disaster for small Black churches (with greedy pastors) could apply for and receive state funds, but don’t have the business organization or know-how to prevent funds from being lost, squandered, or embezzled. (Any church that wants to provide services to the state of Florida can do so already by forming a separate organization.) If it passes, Christians need not get mad when Satanists, witches, and ‘non- standard’ religions start providing state services.
Amendment 9 involves special treatment for the survivors of first responders, another emotional issue that will reduce the tax base of cities and towns that could ill afford it.
Amendment 10: Only businesses in Florida pay personal property taxes. This is a sop for Republican legislators’ campaign contributors. It will cost the state approximately $61 million over three years, and won’t create one new job.
Amendment 11 is another tax cut for seniors, which would cause the state an estimated $18.5 million combined over the first two years it is implemented.
Ironically, seniors would not be exempted from any resulting cut in state services.
Amendment 12 forces students in all state schools to have representation on the State University System’s Board of Governors. A minor issue. Why bother to have this in the Florida Constitution?
Information from League of Women Voters’ 2012 Florida Election & Voter Guide was used in this report.