Welcome back to yet another installment - it's 2012 last I checked the calendar - of "We're Voting For WHAT This November?"
You might notice at the title of this blog entry that the subtitle is "The Big No". That's because, up front, I wanna say that all eleven proposed amendments (minus an 12th that got kicked off the ballot by the state Supreme Court) on the Florida ballot this election are ones pushed by Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott and his GOP brethren in the state legislature. They're known as "Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendments" as different from advocacy-based ones (called "Initiated Constitutional Amendments"), just so you know.
All of these proposed amendments are what the wingnut-led Republican legislature and fraudster governor want. If they want them, WE NEED TO SAY NO TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM. Very simple this year. JUST SAY NO to the 2012 state amendments.
That said, here they are (link to Ballotpedia which provides the references):
Amendment One: Health Care Amendment
This is the same one that was meant to be Amendment Nine back in 2010, but got kicked by the courts for being poorly worded and confusing. This time they brought it back, but the intent is the same: the GOP are trying to nullify the ObamaCare requirements to mandate that people and/or businesses to purchase some form of health care insurance as a means of reducing overall health care costs. Which is something even the United States Supreme Court upheld this summer. Trying to put this into the state constitution is useless: the Supremacy Clause would immediate cancel this. This is more a publicity stunt, and worse yet an attempt to bring back nullification (John C. Calhoun continues to rot in the deepest pit of Hell for this, among other sins) as a political issue. As said before, VOTE NO.
Amendment Two: Veterans Property Tax
This is similar to a tax-break amendment offered up in 2010, but whereas that law was for veterans who were residents of Florida when they served this one covers all disabled veterans currently living here regardless if they were citizens of other states during their military careers.
This is arguably a sensible bill: it's a benefit for veterans who served this nation, and especially for those disabled and needing less taxes to burden them. Unfortunately, this doesn't really benefit a whole of people at the moment, the amendment is being offered at a time where every county is struggling to generate enough tax revenue to pay for ANYTHING, and this is yet another bill being offered by Scott and the wingnut crowd meaning there is something rotten in here somewhere, I know it. As said before, VOTE NO.
Amendment Three: State Revenue Limitation Changes
This amendment is designed to change the current method of capping state revenues: instead of capping based on personal income growth, this will cap it based on inflation and population changes. Excess revenues will remain being placed in the "rainy day fund" until it reaches its excess at which point the state uses that money to spend on projects and/or reduce tax rates.
This is based on something called TABOR or "TAxpayer Bill Of Rights": a movement at the state level to change how states garner their tax revenues. It's telling to note that 20 other states rejected this TABOR amendment: the one state that did - Colorado in 1992 - still had to revise this amendment later in order to pay for education needs by 2001 and had another ballot resolution in 2005 relaxing the harsher TABOR restrictions. In short, it doesn't work very well. And again, as the wingnut legislature is keen on this ballot, this reeks. As said before, VOTE NO.
Amendment Four: Property Tax Caps
The proposed amendment would prohibit increases in the assessed value of
homestead property if the fair market value of the property decreases;
reduces the limitation on annual assessment increases to non-homestead
property; and provides an additional homestead exemption of up to 50 percent of the home's median value to first-time home buyers. It caps commercial and non-homestead (that is, second or more homes owned by a person/family, not the primary residence) tax appraisal rates at 5 percent a year.
The first part - prohibiting tax increases in assessed value if the fair market value decreases - makes sense: the rest of this ballot is inexcusable. This is basically an attempt to kill the counties' abilities to raise any revenue at all through property taxes: the Far Right obsession against taxes is getting to the point where honest government services - schools, road repairs, public safety, etc - are going to suffer HARD. Estimates are that the tax base will get eroded by $1 BILLION over three years. Considering the state is suffering through a recession, this is the WORST TIME to be cutting off public revenues at all.
Of the ballot amendments on this list, this one clearly and most decisively needs to be VOTE NO.
Amendment Five: Breaking the State Courts
The ballot has an official title, but the one I've given it is more accurate.
This ballot adds to the current system of how State Supreme Court Justices are picked - the governor fills a vacancy based on a recommendations list by an independent judiciary nominations/qualifications board, and the voters later vote to retain or remove, more on that below by the by - by having the Senate vote on confirmation beforehand. This brings this more into line with how the United States Supreme Court gets filled, but it brings to it the risk of making judicial selections more partisan. Also, this ballot would change how the courts rules can be overruled by the state legislature. It would also drop the two-thirds majority vote requirement to a simple majority vote in the legislature to override a judicial ruling. This ballot also grants the State House Speaker full access to all information from the currently-independent judiciary nominating committee to determine if a judge could be impeached even before that potential judge gets placed on the bench: basically, it allows the state legislature a means of intimidating anyone up for a judicial opening beforehand.
And this also would create TWO separate state Supreme Courts - one for Civil Appeals, one for Criminal Appeals (to my knowledge, no other state has separate high courts like this). If it happens right now under the current political landscape, this would give Rick "I Mock Your Civil Action" Scott incredible power to nominate a whole slate of vacancies that could tilt both proposed Courts into partisan waters.
In short: this amendment kills the independent, balancing nature of the state's judicial system. The entire concept of "checks and balances" between government and the courts will be crushed. Nothing - outside of the federal government and federal courts - will keep the corrupted nature of the state legislature in check.
The state Chamber of Commerce supports this - mostly because it would give them a Civil Court packed with Scott's pro-business buddies. A good number of state judges, plus the Florida Bar of lawyers, oppose this ballot: I honestly do not recall the last time our judges ever spoke out on any ballot before an election. That should really tell us how wrong - how partisan - this ballot is. VOTE NO.
Amendment Six: Abortion
This proposed ballot would prohibit the use of public funds - except for federal funds, which are hard to come by in the first place - for
abortions except as required by federal law and to save the mother's
life. Notice, no exceptions for victims of rape/incest.
This is basically making Florida one of the hardest states for women to be able to make their own medical health AND their own moral decisions.
The wingnuts are all for this, even though this will make things WORSE for women who have legitimate needs - especially in cases of rape/incest - to get an abortion. For the Love of a Benevolent and Tolerant God Who Respects A Woman's Right To Choose, VOTE NO.
Amendment Seven: Got booted. However, thanks to a wrinkle in the law, the state Attorney General could rewrite this proposal and resubmit it once it fills the court's legal requirements, so it came back as Amendment Eight. See next.
Amendment Eight: Religious B-llshit Amendment
Yes, once again I rewrote the ballot's title in order to make it more accurate. There is nothing about "Religious Freedom" in this thing. It's about giving religious groups greater access to public funding, in violation of the basic tenets of the Separation of Church and State. (It's not about Freedom: It's about Teh MONEY)
The ballot says: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no
individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity
or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as
required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and
deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury
directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious
denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution. What it means is that churches, religiously-based private schools, and/or religiously-run programs can get state money without ensuring that those programs remain secular in nature.
Proponents argue that they need to remove the current restrictions in order to allow church-led social programs more funding to help others. Opponents point out this will open the floodgates to allowing religious groups unfettered access to public money, and pave the way to yet another push for the Far Right's "school voucher" agenda that would waste education funding on private schools at the expense of public schools. Considering that churches and other religious organizations are tax-exempt thanks to the Separation of Church and State clause, this would mean those religious group will not have to put any money INTO state funds and yet be able to TAKE as much money as they can petition for: that is, they get OUR money for nothing.
Amendment Nine: Tax Exemption For Surviving Spouses of Veterans/First Responders
This is slightly different than the earlier proposed ballot in that this is a FULL exemption - not a Homestead Exemption which provides a percentage - from any surviving spouse of a soldier or first responder (police, firefighter, I think also EMT) to pay ANY property taxes at all.
This doesn't sound too bad on paper: but remember again, this is coming from a state legislature and state governor obsessed with the idea of killing off EVERY means of government revenue they can think of in order to demolish the entire public sector. Any hit to tax revenue hurts our ability to pay for those first responders in the FIRST PLACE. Consider the source of this ballot, and yet again, VOTE NO.
Amendment Ten: Tangible Personal Property Tax
This amendment is meant to strike down the ad valorum taxes levied by local governments - county and city - on any tangible property valued between $25,000 to $50,000.
On the face of it, my biggest concern is "what the HELL gets valued at such a narrow range as $25,000 to $50,000?" Are we talking about items like cars and yachts or something? The very nature of this ballot - its strict limitation on anything JUST WITHIN that price range, its focus on capping local governments' ability to raise revenue - makes me think this is a very bad ballot in a list of bad ballots.
Amendment Eleven: Senior Homestead Tax Exemption
The purpose of this ballot is to provide what looks to be a full tax exemption on any senior-owned property valued less than $250,000 where the resident is over 65 and had lived at the property over 25 years, and where the resident is determined by other laws as low-income.
This is, once again, an attempt by the wingnuts to kill of the counties' abilities to raise tax revenues. It looks nice, and it may help those seniors who are on fixed retirement-based incomes. But it's the Far Right, wanting to kill off another means of revenue: whack this one, and they'll go whack more. It's also not certain to affect a lot of people, as there are very few elderly people here who have resided at the same place over 25 years. This is Florida: most of our residents are transplants.
Amendment Twelve: State Student Council Association Seating On Board of Governors
Gonna try to explain this one as easy as possible. The current student representation on the state university system's Board of Governors is filled by the President of the Florida Student Association. This ballot would drop this in exchange for the current Chair of the council of State University Student Bodies, which would be created by the Board of Governors for each state university. It's basically changing who gets to sit in the big kid's seat at the grown-ups table. There may be politics involved here: the potential Chair being more favorable to the Far Right than the current make-up of the Florida Student Association. In the long term, this doesn't improve a thing. VOTE NO.
There's one other thing I want to add: the state Republicans - led by Scott - are pushing to have the Supreme Court Justices up for retention voted out. Justices are nominated by the governor to fill a vacancy when one occurs, but they all undergo periodic retention vote as a means of accountability to voters: the Justices can be voted out if there are clearly abusing their authority, but more often than not voters check off the vote and move on (I've never seen a judge voted out to my knowledge, please refresh my memory if this has happened in Florida since 1988 my first voting year). Neither party - until now, which should be telling you something - has pushed for having all Justices up for retention be voted out: this had always been a non-partisan issue. But now, Scott and his ilk clearly want to clear out a state Court that does not buckle under to his bullying, forcing out otherwise good judges so that Scott can fill those vacancies with his lackeys and stooges who will then bring a partisan taint to a judiciary that is supposed to be above such pettiness.
With regards to the retention of Justices, for the first time ever, I encourage and IMPLORE the voters of Florida TO RETAIN all three - R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince - up for vote. If only to tell Rick "F-ck You" Scott and his buddies that they will NOT win this fight, that they will NOT corrupt our state courts with their partisan bullsh-t.
Save our State. Vote NO on Rick Scott and his misdeeds. And let's get ready to toss his corrupt ass out the door in 2014.
Also, it would really be swell for everyone in Florida to Stay Sane And Vote Obama. :-)
Also wik, I once met Senator Bill Nelson en route to a Florida Gators game a few years back, and I also approve of his overall job performance (and again, Go Gators) so yeah Vote Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.
Not a huge fan of the Bilirakis political machine, so definitely Vote Jonathan Snow for Congress 12th District.
As for the Pasco County Mosquito Control... well, the Mosquitoes were REALLY out of control this year, I think the whole board didn't do a thing to teach them skeeters how to behave in polite society, so shame on... what, I'm misreading the constitutional authority of the county mosquito control? Well, okay, that's up in the air still for me...
Did I miss anything?