The general election in Florida is coming up early next month. This is a critical election as we will decide who will be our next governor, U.S. Senator and state legislators. Just as important, Floridians will be voting on 12 proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution. If any of the proposed amendments get 60 percent, they will be added to the state Constitution.

Voters should have a clear understanding what each Amendment will mean to the citizens of Florida because what we pass will be embedded in the state Constitution and very hard to change if we find out the amendment did more harm than good.

We also need to decide what we want in our state Constitution and what should be done by the Florida Legislature in statute. Anything placed in the Constitution becomes enshrined into law and can not be adjusted if needed without going through the whole extensive and difficult process of adding a new amendment on the ballot.

The Constitution should only be for the basic framework of the structure and design of state government. It should include the general operating procedures and policies of the state which are not subject to change frequently. Detailed methods of law should be done by the Legislature in statutes, not in the Constitution. The Florida Constitution should be limited to definitions and enumerations of authority, not day to day operations which should be handled in the statutes.

Here is a list of these proposed amendments and how I will vote with a brief explanation as to why I made my decision.

Amendment 1 (Property Tax Cut)-YES

Placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature.

Amendment 1 will give homesteaded home owners a third $25,000 exemption on a home’s assessed value between $100,000 and $125,000. I always support taxpayers keeping more of their hard-earned money.

Amendment 2 (Property Tax Cut)-YES

Placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature.

Amendment 2 will make permanent a cap on non-homesteaded increases in assessed value at no more than 10 percent a year. Before 2008, non-homesteaded property, such as second homes and commercial property were seeing 30 percent to 80 percent hikes in their assessed value. Amendment 2 will offer some protection from run away property taxes.

Amendment 3 (Voter Control of Gambling in Florida)-NO

Placed on the ballot through citizens signature initiative.

Amendment 3 would provide the voters through a citizen’s initiative ballot amendment the exclusive method of authorizing casino style gambling in Florida and would strip the Florida Legislature’s current authority to authorize any casino style gambling. If this passed, voters could decide to authorize casino gambling in your neighborhood whether you want it or not. The issue of authorizing casino gambling should be decided by the Florida Legislature and local government elected officials with input from local citizens.

Amendment 4 (Voting Restoration)-YES

Placed on the ballot through citizens signature initiative.

Amendment 4 would automatically restore the right to vote for people with a prior felony conviction, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentence. I believe once people have paid their debt to society, they should have the opportunity to assimilate back into society and become productive citizens. Currently, it can take years to regain voting rights.

Amendment 5 (Supermajority vote of the Florida legislature to raise state taxes or fees)-YES

Placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature.

Amendment 5 would require a two-thirds vote of each chamber of Florida legislature to raise state taxes or fees or create new state taxes and fees. Currently, it just takes a simple majority of the Florida Legislature.  We are taxed enough, and it should be difficult to extract more of our money.

Amendment 6 (Rights of Crime Victims; Judges)-NO

Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Amendment 6 from the Constitution Revision Commission bundles three issues into one amendment. One issue in Amendment 6 would provide enumerated rights to crime victims and their families, such as the right to have input in the prosecution’s case, the right to be notified of plea deals and the right to speak in court. While I believe in victim’s rights, this would impact rights already codified in Florida statute and required by the Florida Constitution. The victim’s rights portion of Amendment 6 goes into great detail, leaving the possibility of future fixes thanks to unintended consequences would be very difficult to change in the Florida Constitution.

Amendment 7 (First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities)-NO

Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Amendment 7 bundles three issues into one amendment. The first issue would provide a constitutional requirement for governments to pay death benefits when first responders they employ or members of the military are killed in the course of their duties. Florida statutes already provide death benefits so this does not need to be in the Florida Constitution. The issues dealing with the structure of the College Board of Trustees and its ability to raise college tuitions are alright but this is the problem of bundling issues in one amendment. Frankly, all of these issues should be decided by stand-alone amendments.

Amendment 8 (School Board Term Limits and Public Schools)

Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.

The Florida Supreme Court has removed Amendment 8 from the ballot.

Amendment 9 (Prohibits Offshore Drilling and Vaping in Enclosed Workplaces)-NO

Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Florida law already prohibits offshore drilling and does need to be in the Florida Constitution. Businesses should be free to decide if they want to allow or prohibit the use of e-cigarettes (vaping).

Amendment 10 (State and Local Government Structure and Operation)-NO 

Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Amendment 10 bundles four issues in on one amendment. Two of these issues would require the Florida Legislature to provide for the state Department of Veteran Affairs and would create the Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Department of Veteran Affairs already exists and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement already works with federal Homeland Security and local law enforcement to implement counter terrorism programs.

In addition, Amendment 10 would prohibit counties from abolishing constitutional required local offices, such as sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and clerk of the circuit court. This issue should be debated as a stand-alone amendment.

Amendment 10 would also require the Florida Legislature to convene its 60-day session in January instead of March in even numbered years (election years). Currently, the Florida Legislature has the authority to set the dates of the session year to year but this language would make it permanent. This is another issue that should be dealt with as a single amendment.

Amendment 11 (Removal of Obsolete Language)-YES

Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Amendment 11 removes obsolete language in the Florida Constitution. Amendment 11 would remove language dealing with an amendment from the 1920s that prohibited Asians from owning property in Florida.  This language was passed in response to the influx of Chinese and Japanese coming to America around the turn of 20th century.  Congress has since repealed federal laws prohibiting Asians from becoming citizens and this language is no longer needed in our state Constitution. Amendment 11 also removes left over language in the state Constitution on taxpayer funded high-speed rail which was repealed by voters in 2004. Amendment 11 also removes language which prohibited the Legislature from reducing sentencing guidelines for those convicted before it passed legislation reducing the sentences for certain crimes.

Amendment 12 (Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers)-YES

Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Amendment 12 will put more restrictions and added oversight of unethical behavior of elected officials in Florida. Amendment 12 will expand the ban on former elected official from becoming lobbyists, moving it from two to six years. Amendment 12 also creates a new ethical standard for public officials using their office to obtain a disproportionate benefit for themselves. I support more restrictions and oversight on elected officials.

Amendment 13 (Ends Dog Racing)-NO

Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Amendment 13 would prohibit pari-mutual operations from racing greyhounds or any other dogs for wagering.  The actual amendment language that voters will not see would establish the “humane treatment of animals” as a “fundamental value” in the Constitution. While I do not want to see any animal abused, I have to wonder if this language could lead to future citizen amendment initiatives or laws to prohibit hunting and fishing, horseback riding or even owning a pet based on this new language.  I would like to know what will constitute “humane treatment of animals.”   I do not support Amendment 13 because I believe the ballot summary is misleading and the actual language could affect many other uses of animals that are not inhumane.

 

Alex Snitker is a United States Marine veteran who was the Libertarian nominee for the U.S. Senate back in 2010. He is the president of the Liberty First Network, the liberty lobbying organization based in Florida that works in Tallahassee on positive liberty legislation and educates the citizens on the political process and how they can individually make an impact.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Alex,
    No on Amendment 4-if firearms rights are not restored,voting rights should not be restored.
    Besides,we all know this is about adding 000’s of Democrat voters,why help them?

  2. I already disagree with a yes on One so I read no further. While personally keeping a few extra bucks in our pockets has a nice ring to – the loss of that many dollars represents a huge loss to our infrastructure, etc. Just how the heck do you think all our roads, bridges, schools, legislators, etc. are paid? By mana? No – we must pay taxes, like it or not. Ammend 1 will only force public budgets to go elsewhere.

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