Mike Bates Analyzes Amendments

Your Turn Host Mike Bates Analyzes the Constitutional Amendments on

November 6 Florida Ballot

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After I spoke about the 12 amendments on the Florida ballot on Your Turn last Tuesday, many people asked me to post my thoughts on each, so I am posting here in very general terms.

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> First, let’s begin with the indisputable fact that it is far too easy to amend Florida’s Constitution. Second, let’s acknowledge that the titles and ballot summaries are inadequate descriptions of what the amendments would do (the misleading verbiage is written by those who put it on the ballot and want it to pass). Third, let’s admit the sad reality that most people who vote on these amendments will have no clue what they are about.

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There are three ways to get amendments on the ballot:

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  1. By a 60% vote of the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. Three amendments were put on the ballot this way (1, 2, & 5).

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  1. By citizen petition receiving at least 766,200 signatures from 14 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts (this exact number of required signatures changes every four years because it is based upon the number that is 8% of the total number of votes cast in the most recent presidential election). Two amendments were put on the ballot this way (3 & 4).

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  1. By Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission. The CRC meets every 20 years and proposes amendments. Florida is the only state to have such an absurd process. The CRC proposed 7 of the 12 amendments we will be voting on (6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, & 13, plus #8 which the Supreme Court removed). They should have only proposed one; an amendment to abolish the

Constitution Revision Commission.

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Note that these notes below are how I intend to vote on each amendment. You should study the issues yourself and make your own decisions. The full text of the amendments (27 pages) can be found at https://dos.myflorida.com/media/699824/constitutional-amendments-2018-

general-election-english.pdf

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> AMENDMENT 1: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption

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> The Florida legislature put this amendment on the ballot. It would exempt an additional $25,000 of assessed value of homesteaded properties from taxation. The problem is that property taxes fund local governments not the state government. So what we have here are

> state lawmakers proposing tax cuts to local governments. I don’t like that. School taxes would not be included in the exemption amount.

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> I will vote NO on Amendment 1.

 

AMENDMENT 2: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments

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This amendment would limit property tax assessment increases on non-homesteaded real estate to no more than 10% each year. That limitation is already required, but it expires on January 1, 2019 unless it is renewed by this amendment. A “yes” vote simply maintains the status quo. This has no impact on homesteaded property.

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I will vote YES on Amendment 2.

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AMENDMENT 3: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida

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The legislature currently has the constitutional authority to authorize gambling in the state of Florida if they chose to do so through the legislative process. Amendment 3 would strip the

legislature of that authority. So, if casinos were to ever be authorized in the state of Florida, a vote of the people giving at least 60% approval would be necessary. I have no problem with this

authority remaining with the legislature.

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I will vote NO on Amendment 3.

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AMENDMENT 4: Voting Restoration Amendment

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This would automatically restore voting rights to Floridians who have been convicted of felonies after they complete their sentences (including any parole or probation). It would not apply to murderers or sex offenders.

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Advocates of this amendment are lying when they say Florida permanently disenfranchises felons. That is simply not true. Florida’s constitution very clearly defines the process through which felons may have their voting rights restored; an approval from the governor. And

it is completely constitutional. The U.S. Constitution has even more concentrated clemency power than the state does. How do people convicted of federal crimes get pardons, clemency, or restoration of rights? Through the arbitrary decision of a lone executive!

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In 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that laws permanently prohibiting felons from voting ARE constitutional. The case was Richardson v. Ramirez.

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Florida should keep its process intact.

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It’s also worth pointing out that the Democrats are aggressively pushing for passage of this amendment because they know that convicted felons are far more likely to vote for Democrats than they are to vote for Republicans. This is purely an attempt to make it easy for Democrats to win elections in Florida (including our 29 Electoral College votes for President).

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I will vote NO on Amendment 4.

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AMENDMENT 5: Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees

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This amendment would require a two-thirds vote by each chamber of the legislature in order to impose new taxes or raise existing taxes and fees. Even though I don’t like raising taxes, I don’t like the idea of a supermajority being required to do it. Although it is certain that Democrats will one day control Florida’s government again, and they will absolutely raise taxes when they do, I believe a simple majority should be legally sufficient to do so.

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I will vote NO on Amendment 5.

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AMENDMENT 6: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges

 

This would unnecessarily add Marsy’s Law provisions to the Florida Constitution. The legislature is the better place to incorporate those provisions into state law.

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I strongly believe that victims of crimes should have the right to consult with the prosecutor, be notified of hearings, releases, escapes, and be treated fairly throughout all processes. But a

constitutional amendment mandating that is not necessary. Crime victims already have rights in Florida, and the legislature may confer addition rights via appropriate legislation. Couple that with the unrelated clauses modifying mandatory retirement ages for judges, how long judges may serve after reaching retirement age, and the interpretation requirements of the judiciary, and this becomes just another terrible multi-issue amendment proposed by the CRC.

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I will vote NO on Amendment 6.

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AMENDMENT 7: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities

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Passage of this amendment would grant mandatory payment of death benefits and free education benefits to survivors of first responders and military personnel who died in the line of duty. I have no problem compensating families of the deceased, but that should be done through an earned survivors benefit (which is already required by Florida law, so a constitutional amendment is not necessary). Lastly, benefits aren’t defined in this amendment, so who knows what this amendment could actually be requiring. We could be permanently authorizing something in our constitution that we shouldn’t.

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I will vote NO on Amendment 7.

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AMENDMENT 8: Removed from the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court

 

N/A

AMENDMENT 9: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces

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This would prohibit offshore drilling in state waters and ban vaping in the workplace. What do these two subjects have in common? Nothing! This is just the Constitutional Review Commission trying to ban vaping by appealing to people’s opposition to offshore drilling. This is an improper way to get a vaping ban in through the back door. Besides, drilling in Florida’s state waters is already illegal, and this would have no effect on drilling in federal waters (which begin just 3 nautical miles from shore on the Atlantic and 9 nautical miles from shore on the Gulf).

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I will vote NO Amendment on 9.

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AMENDMENT 10: State and Local Government Structure and Operation

 

This is another amendment with too many unrelated provisions. It would mandate that all counties in the state of Florida elect their sheriffs, property appraisers, tax collectors, clerks of court, and supervisors of elections. It would also enshrine in the Constitution very specific dates for the legislature to begin session. And it would mandate a Department of Veteran Affairs (which we already have legislatively) and the creation of a state Office of Domestic Security

> and Counterterrorism within the FDLE.

 

Once again, that’s too many unrelated issues crammed into one amendment by the CRC. And it could all be done legislatively. There is no need to amend the constitution to do it.

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I will vote NO on Amendment 10.

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AMENDMENT 11: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes

 

This is being presented as a cleanup amendment with several unrelated provisions. It would repeal an unconstitutional provision that is currently in Florida’s Constitution that prohibits foreign-born people who are not eligible for U.S. citizenship from owning property in the

state.

 

Although that language is in the Florida Constitution, it has no force of law whatsoever, thus rendering its repeal unnecessary. This amendment would also remove language in the Florida Constitution mandating high-speed trains. And it would eliminate the state’s authority to

prosecute and punish crimes that occurred before that specific activity was rendered legal through legislative action. I see that as a form of ex post facto lawmaking.

 

And I don’t like it. It’s also another multi-issue CRC amendment.

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I will vote NO on Amendment 11.

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AMENDMENT 12: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers.

This amendment would make it illegal for former public officials to lobby for a period of six years after their terms expire. While I acknowledge that many lawmakers monetize the relationships they formed while serving in elected office, I don’t believe the constitution is

the place to prohibit that. Current law has a 2-year prohibition. I think that 2 years is sufficient.

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I will vote NO on Amendment 12.

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AMENDMENT 13: Ends Dog Racing

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Although this seems like a straightforward prohibition on dog racing in the state of Florida, it is potentially far more encompassing and egregious than that. Dog racing is currently legal in the state of Florida, and this amendment does not grandfather existing tracks. It is improper to use the constitution to make a legal business illegal by a vote of the public.

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There is also very specific language in this amendment that poses a potential danger to hunting, fishing, and farming. The text of the full ballot measure, which will NOT appear on the ballot itself, states that “The humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida.” This seemingly innocuous language could be a massive Trojan Horse. If that “humane treatment of animals” language gets into the constitution, I could foresee hardcore leftist animal rights activists having a constitutional basis to file lawsuits against people & industries who hunt, fish, and farm. After all, to the leftist lunatics, hunting, fishing, and farming are, by definition, an inhumane treatment of animals. And let’s not forget that there are some Leftist ignoranuses (spelling intended) who think people shouldn’t be allowed to have pets because “ownership” of an animal is inhumane. Even beyond that concern, I

don’t believe the Constitution should ban dog racing.

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Lastly, Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon), who served as a member of the Constitution Revision Commission proposed this amendment. We should all be suspicious of anything Tom Lee desires. He has been a terrible lawmaker for many years. I don’t trust him. If he wants it, there must be something sinister about it, or he stands to personally benefit from it.

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I will vote NO on Amendment 13.

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HERE’S A QUICK SUMMARY OF MY VOTES:

1-NO

2-YES

3-NO

4-NO

5-NO

6-NO

7-NO

8-NOT ON BALLOT

9-NO

10-NO

11-NO

12-NO

13-NO

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So there you have it. “Yes” on 2, and “no” on everything else. That’s my analysis and opinion. Do I think I’m right? Obviously, I do, or I would change my opinions. But you should review the pros and cons of each amendment and make your own informed decision. If you have read

> this far, you already know more about these amendments than at least 75% of the voters. But there is much more to know.

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I’d love to discuss these with you on the radio. Call in and join the conversation.

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Mike Bates

Host, Your Turn

Every Tuesday

4-6pm

 

P.S. I expect Amendments 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, & 12 to pass. And number 13 might.

 

 

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