I have had a lot of requests for advice on how to vote on the constitutional amendment proposals as well as the Judicial Elections. After seeking the counsel of several informed individuals as well as conducting my own research, I have come to the following conclusions. These are my recommendations for the November 2 ballot:
PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Repeal of Public Campaign Financing Requirement
Summary: Amendment 1 would end the constitutional requirement for taxpayer financing of political campaigns.
Pro: Proponents of Amendment 1 wish to repeal the state Constitution’s provision on campaign financing. They argue that tax dollars should not be used to fund political campaigns, especially during periods of budget austerity. They also note that in the nine states where public funds can be used to aid political campaigns, there is no evidence to support the notion that this practice has helped lesser-known or minor party candidates compete more effectively.
Con: Opponents of Amendment 1 point out that voters in 1998 approved a constitutional amendment providing for public financing of political campaigns, and that the problem the amendment was intended to address persists: that candidates who lack personal wealth necessary to fund a statewide campaign from their own pocket find it difficult to compete against wealthy individuals or well-established candidates, particularly incumbents.
Recommendation: On balance, the proponents’ positions are more persuasive. Therefore, I recommend YES on Amendment 1.
Homestead Ad Valorem Tax Credit for Deployed Military Personnel
Summary: Amendment 2 would instruct the Legislature to enact an additional homestead exemption for Florida homeowners on active military service outside the country. The amount of the tax break would be based on the amount of time served overseas in the previous year.
Pro: Proponents argue that this additional property tax exemption would provide financial help to military personnel and their families when the personnel are deployed abroad.
Con: There is no formal opposition to this measure, but it could slightly reduce property tax revenues that support services provided by local governments and school districts.
Recommendation: The fiscal impact on local governments would be minor, while the financial aid for military personnel who are deployed abroad could pay dividends by solidifying Florida’s standing as a place where military personnel are welcome to live and to retire when their active duty ends. Therefore, I recommend YES on Amendment 2.
Referenda Required for Adoption and Amendment of Local Government Comprehensive Land Use Plans
Summary: Amendment 4 would require voter approval of proposals that change local growth-management plans.
Pro: Supporters claim that voters deserve “a seat at the table” on growth decisions in their city or county for issues affecting their homes and our communities. They say Amendment 4 will end the atmosphere of corruption and distrust in local government by giving voters the ability to veto or approve new projects and changes to existing developments, thereby fixing the broken system currently in place. Proponents also claim that Florida’s real estate bust and the related foreclosure crisis were caused in part by overdevelopment that occurred when elected city and county officials too easily approved the plans of developers from whom they regularly receive large campaign contributions.
Con: Opponents say that Amendment 4 will cost jobs and hurt Florida’s economy by stifling growth, thereby costing taxpayers millions of dollars. They also claim that the amendment is poorly written and doesn’t provide exceptions for vital community needs such as hospitals, police stations, and schools. Some opponents also claim that Amendment 4 paradoxically could create more of the urban sprawl that its advocates decry by forcing developers to look for lands on the urban fringes where their plans would be less likely to meet resistance from nearby neighborhoods. Opponents also note that because of the large numbers of comprehensive plan amendments proposed in many jurisdictions during each election cycle, the presence on the ballot of scores of highly technical questions may exacerbate Election Day congestion at polling places. However, by far the most persuasive argument against Amendment 4 may be the experience of St. Petersburg Beach, where a local version this measure has been blamed for causing higher taxes, a loss of jobs, and endless litigation.
Recommendation: The evidence against Amendment 4 is overwhelming. Currently, more than 334 organizations, associations, and local governments, plus every daily newspaper in the state, have taken a position against this amendment…and for good reason. Because of the detrimental impacts this amendment would have on Florida’s economy and on citizens’ property rights, I recommend NO on Amendment 4.
Standards for Legislature to Follow in Legislative Redistricting
Summary: Amendment 5 would require that legislative districts not be drawn to favor one political party over another or deny minorities equal opportunity to participate in the political process.
Pro: Supporters of Amendment 5 complain that the legislators choose their constituents rather than the other way around, intended primarily to protect incumbents and partisan advantage. They also note that some legislative and congressional districts are geographically so misshapen that many voters do not even realize who represents them in Tallahassee or Washington, D.C.
Con: Opponents of Amendment 5 say compliance with Amendment 5’s standards would be difficult, if not impossible, because of the nature of Florida’s diverse demographics. They complain that in practice these standards are contradictory and confusing – akin to the practical joke that some old-line college coaches used to play on their freshmen players by shouting, “All right, you guys! Line up alphabetically by height.”
Recommendation: Enactment of the confusing and contradictory standards mandated in Amendment 5 would increase the likelihood that any redistricting plan devised by the Florida Legislature would be subject to protracted litigation and would ultimately be replaced by a plan devised by appointed judges rather than by the people’s elected representatives. Therefore, I recommend NO on Amendment 5.
Standards for Legislature to Follow in Congressional Redistricting
Summary: Amendment 6 would require that congressional districts not be drawn to favor one political party over another or deny minorities equal opportunity to participate in the political process.
Pro and Con: See Amendment 5.
Recommendation: As with Amendment 5, enactment of the confusing and contradictory standards mandated in Amendment 6 would increase the likelihood that any redistricting plan devised by the Florida Legislature would be subject to protracted litigation and would ultimately be replaced by a plan devised by appointed judges rather than by elected representatives. Therefore, I recommend NO on Amendment 6.
Revision of the Class Size Requirements for Public Schools
Summary: Amendment 8 would set the average pre-K through third grade class size at 18 students, but allow a maximum of 21 students in any one class provided it was balanced at that school by a class with fewer than 18 students; set an average of 22 students for fourth through eighth grade but allow a maximum of 27; and set a high school average of 25 students but allow a maximum of 30.
Pro: Amendment 8’s slight relaxation of the class size amendment’s overly rigid limits would solve the problem of “the 19th student.” That is, if the absolute limit in the early grades is 18 students, what happens when all the classes are at the maximum and a 19th student shows up a couple of weeks after school starts? Or what happens when a high school senior needs one last math course to graduate and all of the sections are filled? Slightly modifying the overly rigid limits to allow for a school-wide average within the respective grade groupings would avoid these problems.
Con: The teachers unions and some parental groups argue that passage of Amendment 8 would allow class sizes to creep back upward to unacceptable levels at which teachers have too many students assigned to them and cannot provide students with enough individual attention. They also claim that the gains in student achievement are attributable to smaller classes rather than to the other reforms that have included charter schools, vouchers, and a testing regimen to measure students’ academic progress.
Recommendation: In order to provide schools with a reasonable degree of flexibility with respect to class sizes, I recommend YES on Amendment 8.
NONBINDING STATEWIDE ADVISORY REFERENDUM
Balancing the Federal Budget. – A Nonbinding Referendum Calling for an Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Summary: The referendum asks whether voters support a constitutional requirement that the federal government balance its budget without raising taxes. Florida voters do not have the authority to force the federal government to adopt such a requirement, so the vote is purely symbolic and known as a nonbinding resolution.
Pro: The question will provide voters with a chance to weigh in on the issue. An affirmative vote would put pressure on Congress to tighten its belt, and give Florida delegates in Washington political support to push for change.
Con: The referendum is a push poll, a survey in which questions are written in such as way as to steer votes in a desired direction.
Recommendation: I recommend YES on Referendum 1.
Justices of the Supreme Court – Retention
Charles T. Canady – YES – voted to support constitutional amendment to fight Obamacare
Jorge Labarga – NO – voted to deny constitutional amendment to fight Obamacare
James E. C. Perry – NO – voted to deny constitutional amendment to fight Obamacare
Ricky L. Polston – YES – voted to support constitutional amendment to fight Obamacare
District Court of Appeal – Retention
Marva L. Crenshaw – NO
Patricia Kelly – YES
Nelly N. Khouzam – YES
Robert Morris – YES
Steven T. Northcut – NO
Craig C. Villanti – YES
Douglas A. Wallace – NO POSITION
Patricia “Trish” Muscarella
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