Amendments on the ballot

Amendment 5 was placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature, at the request of Gov. Rick Scott. This amendment would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature in order to increase taxes or fees. As things stand now, the Legislature can increase taxes, except corporate income tax, through a simple majority vote. If it passes, it would require a two-thirds majority in each chamber of the Legislature before taxes can be raised or passed. Local governments would be excluded from this requirement in the event they chose to raise taxes.

At this time, 15 states require a super-majority for at least some of their tax decisions.

The League of Women Voters opposes this amendment because it does not contain any provisions for emergencies such as hurricanes or floods, and they also believe it may hinder the Legislature’s ability to pass a budget.

The League of Women Voters lists the supporters of this amendment as Florida Tax Watch and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and opponents as the League of Women Voters, Florida Policy Institute, Progress Florida, Florida Education Association and Southern Poverty Law Center.

If you vote yes on this amendment, you are voting to require a two-thirds majority vote before raising or passing any new taxes.

If you vote no on this amendment, you are voting to leave things as they are now, which means a simple majority can raise or pass new taxes.

Amendment 6
Amendment 6 was placed on the ballot by the Constitutional Revision Committee (CRC). The Florida Constitution requires that every 20 years, a committee is appointed to review and recommend changes to the Florida constitution. Fifteen members are appointed by the governor, nine are picked by the House speaker, nine by the Senate president, the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court chooses three, and the Florida attorney general is the final member. The committee gathers input from the public and recommends proposed amendments to go on the ballot. The CRC is allowed to bundle its issues, so completely unrelated items often will be on one amendment and cannot be voted on separately. Amendment 6 is one of those bundled amendments. It deals with three completely unrelated issues.

The first part of the amendment deals with the rights of victims, and is taken in part from a law that is already on the books in some states called Marsy’s Law. Marsy Nicholas was a college student who was murdered in 1982. A week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother ran into her murderer in a grocery store. No one had told them that he was out on bail. Marsy’s brother has since made it a goal to have laws put into effect giving victims and their families constitutional and equal rights. Florida already has some laws on the books which support the rights of victims, but this amendment would expand upon these.

The second part of this amendment deals with the mandatory retirement age of Florida judges, including Supreme Court justices. At this time, the retirement age is 70. If the amendment is passed, the new mandatory retirement age will be 75.

The third part of the amendment is concerned with the way courts interpret state laws. If passed, this amendment would force courts to determine the meaning of a state law themselves rather than depending on a state agency to interpret it for them.

The League of Women Voters lists 37 Florida sheriffs, Florida Smart Justice, and Marsy’s Law for Florida as supporters of this amendment. It lists itself along with the Florida Public Defender Association, ACLU of Florida and the Southern Poverty Law Center as opponents.

The League of Women Voters explains that it is opposed because “victims” rights are already protected in the Constitution, and this amendment would eliminate an existing provision that victims’ rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.”

One important thing to remember about this amendment is that you are voting for all or nothing. A yes vote means an increase in victims’ rights AND an increase in retirement age for judges AND a change in the way courts interpret laws.

As always, make sure you vote, but research the issues first, and vote wisely!

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