It's time. Voting has begun for the general election, and dang is the turnout hot!
I know I'm gonna be missing the people who did the early voting this Monday and today, but what the hell, I'm gonna go over with you the Florida state amendments being proposed this November 4th and yes I will make my recommendations about how you should vote on em dammit!
Amendment 1: a Declaration of Rights to remove an outdated law in the state constitution that banned certain ethnics groups (the Japanese?) from owning property in the state. No law really ever came of it and it's so discriminatory that it would never hold up in any court, but the passage still needs to be removed and this is the cleanest way to do it. A no-brainer to vote YES on this.
Amendment 2: the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. It states that a marriage can only exist between a man and woman, and that any other form of union (between gays, between farm animals, between Disney cartoon characters, between congressmen and their pages) be invalid.
This is the cultural war at work here. There's already a regular law on the books, but groups opposed to gays having equal marriage/union rights want this passed to make it harder for federal courts to legalize gay unions.
My view on this? I'm single, lonely, virgin, never getting married anyway. Directly, this law does not affect me (it doesn't MANDATE I get married) one way or the other. However, I view this law as a sham, a violation of the rights of those who want to marry, co-habitate, what have you. They call this amendment a Marriage Protection act??? What a joke! This law doesn't protect people or society from the forces that DO threaten the sanctity of marriage: it doesn't stop adultery, it doesn't stop domestic violence, it doesn't stop divorce. There are hundred of gay couples looking to get married. There are THOUSANDS of hetero couples getting divorced every year. Divorce affects families by screwing up income, by breaking up households, by dividing and weakening parental responsibility regarding raising children. (In a nice irony, in the states that are allowing gays to marry we are already seeing gay couples file for divorce just like the heteros). If this amendment was doing something to cut the rate of divorce, if it was doing something to crack down on domestic violence, I'd buy the whole "We're protecting the sanctity of marriage" sthick. But it's not: it's a blatant attempt to deny a very small minority from being able to share access to legal rights that hetero couple get. There's even a chance this amendment could affect the rights of hetero couples by limiting their access to legal rights, for example hetero couples living in common-law (non-certified) marriages could find their current ability to share health care costs denied for themselves and any kids they might have.
This is a discriminatory amendment. I'd vote NO.
Amendment 3: This amendment allows the Lege to limit state Property Appraisers on appraising real property that has received hurricane wind protection upgrades and energy-saving upgrades. People were complaining that attempts to upgrade their homes to qualify for insurance coverage discounts were nailing them the other way with higher appraisal taxes. The most obvious benefit of this amendment is that it could encourage improvements to houses to withstand hurricane damage, which could go a long way to reduce insurance costs and improve our state's attempts to keep people insured. The most obvious consequence is that counties and cities will see a reduction in the property tax revenues they'd otherwise be getting: calculations on that appear minimal. I'd vote YES.
Amendment 4: This amendment is similar to A-3 in that it limits Appraisers again, but this time regarding property being 'protected' for green/conservation purposes. The gist is, keep your land 'green' and never pay property tax on it. At all.
Environmental groups are all for it: it encourages land owners to keep certain properties undeveloped and eco-friendly (places like wetlands, for example). Other properties being used but having conservation value can still be taxed, but only for current use value and not based on potential use (which is a tactic some Property Appraiser offices use to keep some landowners honest... and some offices use to squeeze more tax revenue out of other landowners...). Critics fear that land owners could figure out loopholes in the definitions of 'current use' value or 'in perpetuity', and end up getting tax-free land that they would then use to generate greater profit.
The questions about the law are valid, but the chances this law could improve the state's environment (which has been threatened) and better define property development are valid as well. I'm erring on the side of YES.
Amendment 5: no longer exists.
Amendment 6: Another Property Appraiser limiter, this time applying to waterfront/beach property. Properties to be appraised for 'current use' rather than 'potential use.' Property and business owners in waterfront/beach areas were complaining their rates were going up for developments and improvements in their area that they did not directly contribute to (for example, a marina's fish/tackle store getting hit for 'potential use' improvements done to a boat pier built for a condominium down the street). The Appraisers are fighting back on this one, noting that area development upgrades do affect other properties and businesses much like a fancy new home improves the value of the surrounding neighborhood. For the most part, I'm siding with the businesses: they shouldn't get taxed for things they're not doing. However, this amendment is too narrow: it protects marinas and commercial fishing businesses, but not local hotels and stores that are also getting hit hard by the 'potential use' appraisals. I'm thinking NO, until a better amendment gets passed.
Amendment 7: no longer exists.
Amendment 8: Provides counties with the opportunity to create a local sales tax to fund their county-level community colleges. It allows the county residents to vote on the sales tax, and limits the tax to five years, at which point it 'sunsets' out and the voters would have to vote a new one if needed. The deal is, schools and colleges should already be getting funding from the state to stay operational, and they still will: this amendment is an attempt to supplement more funding. The question becomes, will this give the state an excuse to cut back on their funding if/when the counties start their own funding? Otherwise, I kinda like this law: it gives each county the choice of improving their own local systems of higher education, and community colleges are where a lot of low-income residents go to improve their education and work toward higher degrees that translate into better-paying jobs. I'd go YES on this one.
Amendment 9: no longer exists.
There we go. Have at it.