Guest Commentary: Views on constitutional amendments

Democracy is hard work. Voters this year must consider a long list of proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution. Amendments that receive support from 60 percent of voters become part of our state’s supreme law.

On the 2018 ballot are 12 amendments. There were 13, but the Florida Supreme Court removed Amendment 8 because its language was judged deceptive. The primary effect of Amendment 8 would have been to remove local school boards from the process of setting up privately operated charter schools. But the words “charter schools” were nowhere to be found in the amendment’s title, nor its ballot summary. The League of Women Voters challenged the amendment, and the court agreed that it was intentionally misleading.

Of the 12 amendments that do appear on the ballot, seven are products of the Constitution Revision Commission (the body that crafted Amendment 8), three are proposed by the Florida Legislature, and two earned their place on the ballot the hard way -— by voter petition signatures (No. 3, Voter Control of Gambling, and No. 4, Restoration of Voting Rights).

Conservative, red-tinted organizations that have offered opinions on the 12 amendments include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Family Action, Florida Conservative Party and the Republican Party of Florida. The Republican Party, which dominates the Florida Legislature and the Constitutional Revision Commission, thus indirectly endorses all three amendments offered by the Legislature.

On the blue side of the spectrum, with their progressive perspectives on the amendments, are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFCSME), League of Women Voters, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Progressive Caucus of the Florida Democratic Party. Not all groups expressed a preference on each amendment; they are neutral on many. A few the organizations are strictly nonpartisan, but their positions on the amendments are aligned with those of a particular political perspective and thus are categorized accordingly.

Organizations on both sides of the political divide generally agree on several of the amendments. There is broad opposition and little support for Amendments No. 6 (Rights of Crime Victims; Judges), No. 7 (First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities) and No. 12 (Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers). Similarly, of those groups expressing an opinion, a majority endorse No. 3 (Voter Control of Gambling in Florida) and No. 11 (Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes).

Opinions on the remaining seven amendments are divided along governance philosophy lines — conservative vs. progressive.

Progressive groups favor No. 4 (Voting Restoration Amendment), No. 9 (Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces) and No. 13 (Dog Racing). The Republican and conservative groups are either against or have no opinion on the measures.

Conservative groups recommend approval of No. 1 (Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption), No. 2 (Limitations on Property Tax Assessments), No. 5 (Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees) and No. 10 (State and Local Government Structure and Operation). Democratic and progressive groups generally oppose these proposed amendments.

Summaries of the proposed constitutional amendments and the opinions of the various groups are posted on the Facebook page of the Glades County Democratic Executive Committee (@GladesDemocrats).

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