Florida Constitutional Revisions on the November 3rd ballot
Emily Browne
October 1998

The constitutional revisions on the ballot this year are a confusing mixture, but here is a run down. Note that due to Amendment 12, the National Rifle Association may try to portray the whole package of amendments as an assault on conservative values by saying it will take away voters' ability to elect judges (7) and the education commissioner (8), authorize gay marriages (9, presumably) and restrict rights to buy a gun. An April poll found that 62% would vote it all down if convinced the above were true.

1) allows cities and counties to grant property tax exemption based on property's character without the property undergoing renovation. Seems reasonable. The League of Women Voters (LWV) takes no position.

2) changes the death penalty to conform to the US Supreme Court, prohibits reduction of the death sentence based on the invalidity of execution method. An election year ploy by conservatives to get people out to vote for the GOP? LWV takes no position.

3) authorizes the Legislature to allow counties and cities to grant an additional homestead tax exemption not exceeding $25,000 to those 65 and more whose household income does not exceed a specified amount. Benefits the elderly on fixed incomes, but some fear at the expense of younger taxpayers. LWV takes no position.

4) allows citizens to file legal documents at branch offices as well as county seat. Seems reasonable, an efficiency tool. LWV takes no position.

5) replaces the Game and Fresh Water Fish and Marine Fisheries commission with the Fish and wildlife commission. Extends indefinitely Preservation 2000. Support this one as the LWV does and other environmental groups do.

6) declares the education of children to be a fundamental value to Floridians. Symbolic!?! Still vote yes. LWV and teachers support.

7) reallocates the cost of Florida's court system, forcing the state to pay more. Also increases judges' terms to 6 years and allows counties to decide if they want merit retention. Florida Association of Counties and Common Cause (CC) support; LWV takes no position.

8) eliminates the Sec of State and Education as elected offices, strengthens the powers of the governor. LWV, CC support. vote yes.

9) adds the words "(female and male alike)" after all natural persons who have basic rights, adds national origin to those categories of person protected, and changes handicap to disability. VOTE YES FOR THIS ONE!

10) allows the same tax exemption to cities and special districts currently allowed to counties when trying to lure nure new business. Is this going the wrong way? Also allows taxpayers to talk to local officials about pending zoning and land use without violating open meeting laws. DOES NOT SOUND GOOD. VOTE NO. LWV takes no position.

11) THIS IS THE HARD ONE. Has 3 good and 2 bad items. The 3 good: makes qualifying for minority and independent candidates for the ballot same as for major party candidates; changes voting age from 21 to 18; and provides campaign finance reform. The 2 bad: allows all voters, regardless of party, to vote in a primary where there is no opposition in the general election; and allows more counties to choose to have "non partisan" school board elections. In my opinion, the bad override the good. If Republicans could have voted in our county primaries, I would bet that the results would be quite different. Re school boards, the argument that this takes the politics out of school boards is hogwash. The politics are still there (witness the GOP support of school vouchers). Non partisan elections are about what is revealed versus what is concealed, and who has the money to get their name out. Further, it makes money more important if a person does not have the party workers to support. Sadly, LWV, Sierra Club, Greens support this one. But I appeal to you to VOTE NO!!

12) allows counties to regulate gun purchases on public property (i.e. adds gun shows gun shops they have now), NRA opposes. Vote yes.

13) the cleanup amendment addresses a variety of issues: desexes the Constitutional language, has the tax and budget reform commission and the constitution revision commission meet every 20 years instead of 10, strikes the requirement of a code of conflict of interest for state employees, adds definition to rules of courts martial for the Florida National Guard. LWV takes no position.

Emily Browne is president of Gainesville Area National Organization for Women.

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