Right, I’m going to just get right into this because we have a lot of ground to cover. In the decade or so I have been covering Florida politics, I cannot ever remember so many state constitutional amendments being on the ballot. So let’s just run through all of them and I’ll explain to you why each and every one of them sucks.
Amendment 1: This amendment would opt Florida out of Obamacare. Unfortunately for conservatives in Florida, the U.S. Constitution trumps state constitutions. And since the Supreme Court found Obamacare to be constitutional, this amendment is utterly meaningless. Even if it passes, it will change nothing. All it will do is make Floridians look like even bigger morons in the voting booth, and the rest of the country already perceives our electoral abilities to be … subpar, shall we say.
Amendment 2: Right now in the state of Florida, disabled veterans are able to take a large tax break based on the percentage of their disability. If a veteran is 10 percent disabled, they can take 10 percent off the assessed value of their home in terms of property taxes. If they’re 100 percent disabled, they may pay no property taxes at all. To be eligible for the benefit, these veterans must be Florida residents age 65 and older who were disabled in combat and who were Florida residents when they joined the military. Now, amendment 2 would cut out that last requirement, meaning that any veteran who was disabled in combat and is age 65 or older can move to Florida and get a substantial tax break. On its surface, that sounds great. These folks deserve it. But it also means that schools and local governments in Florida would lose $15 million in just the first three years. Besides which, enshrining tax breaks of any kind into the state constitution is stupid, pure and simple.
Amendment 3: This one gets pretty confusing. Basically, there’s a formula through which the state of Florida comes up with a cap on spending. The state cannot spend more than a certain amount dictated by this formula, and any amount generated by fees that exceeds this amount gets dumped into a rainy-day fund. The cap is meant to ensure that the state doesn’t jack fees to ungodly levels and go on a spending spree — indeed, to date, the government has never spent more than the cap. And here’s where amendment 3 comes in: The amendment would change the formula so that the end result would be a much stricter number, practically ensuring that the government will hit the cap and be forced to cut back on services. Anti-government yahoos love this amendment, saying it puts the brakes on Big Government. They are morons. The passage of this amendment would prevent government from carrying out the basic services that even the most ardent of small-government aficionados should support.
Amendment 4: This amendment would slash in half the taxes on non-homestead properties, such as commercial real estate and second homes. Some first-time home buyers would also get a tax break. … oh, and it would cost schools and local governments more than a billion (with a B!) dollars in the first three years. With cutbacks happening at schools across the board, this is insanity, pure and simple.
Amendment 5: Despite the fact that the Florida Supreme Court is not a bastion of liberalism, it’s not right-wingy enough for our bizarro, rabidly reactionary Legislature. This amendment, shamelessly proposed by the Legislature, gives that body the right to perform witch hunts on judicial nominees — they’ll be able to investigate them even if they’re not up for impeachment. Also, it would give the Florida Senate the right to approve all of the governors nominees to the court. It’s almost impossible to overemphasize how drastically bad this amendment is. It’s a naked power grab by the Legislature.
Amendment 6: Federal law prohibits most federal funding of abortions. State law, too. But nevertheless, we apparently need a state constitutional amendment to tell us the same thing. Dumb. Also, this amendment would give the courts justification to approve of far-more-restrictive abortion laws, finding them constitutional by the state constitution and kicking such laws upstairs, where a conservative U.S. Supreme Court is just dying to revisit Roe v. Wade.
Amendment 7: This amendment was stricken from the ballot because the morons who wrote it forgot about the U.S. Constitution. (see below)
Amendment 8: This amendment would repeal a 126-year-old amendment of the state constitution that prohibits state money going to private religious schools. It says that “no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support.” It was originally written without the supportive phrase “except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” but that amendment, no. 7, was shot down by the courts as being blatantly unconstitutional. This repeal move would open the door for school voucher programs, which would in turn gut our public schools and give money to private schools with little government oversight. So, conservatives, if you feel like Florida should fund madrassas, by all means, vote for this.
Amendment 9: Another state constitutional amendment that puts a tax break in the constitution. So, so stupid. This one would allow the surviving spouse of a soldier or first responder killed in the line of duty to write off all property taxes. It would cost the state about $600,000 in the first year. I oppose tax breaks in the constitution on general principle, but especially now, when our schools and local governments are desperate for revenue.
Amendment 10: AGAIN with a tax break in the state constitution. In this case, it has to do with “tangible personal property used to earn income.” If you make money from machinery, tools, etc., you’re supposed to pay an ad valorem tax on that personal property. However, there is already an exception for the first $25,000 of personal property that falls under the rule, meaning most people never have to worry about this tax when they sit at home and write on their computers for work or what have you. This amendment would increase that exception to $50,000 and cost schools and local governments $61 million over the first three years.
Amendment 11: Unbelievably, yet another tax break that, for reasons known only to the Legislature, must be passed as a constitutional amendment rather than as law. (Remember laws, legislators? It’s your job to pass them.) In this case, anyone age 65 and older who has a house worth less than a quarter million dollars and who has lived in that house for 25 years and who has a household income less than $27,030 would pay absolutely nothing in property taxes. Come on. Nothing? Seriously? Can’t even kick in a couple bucks? In any case, this new exception would cost the state $18.5 million in the first two years.
Amendment 12: This one’s a little confusing. Real quick: Every university in the State University System is controlled by a board of trustees. Those boards, in turn, report to the Board of Governors. The student body president at each university sits on that university’s board of trustees. Further, the student body presidents are all members of a dues-paying organization called the Florida Student Association, and the president of that association also sits on the Board of Governors. Oh, wait. Did I say “all”? I meant to say all student body presidents are members except for the student body president at Florida State University. This amendment would make it so that the student body president who sits on the Board of Governors would be selected from a new organization created by the amendment and consisting of all the student body presidents. A better idea: Pay your goddamn dues like every other university, FSU.
So, that’s it. All 11 of the amendments you’ll see on the ballot. Vote no on all of them, because they’re all either unnecessary tax breaks (2, 4, 9, 10, and 11), naked power grabs (5 and 12), or dumbassed, right-wing quackery (1, 3, 6, and 8).