Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Florida Ballot Amendments 2016: Four More Reasons to Show Up AND VOTE, PEOPLE

Welcome back to yet another ANOTHER installment - it's 2016 the Year of Celebrity Deaths - of "Florida's Voting For WHAT This November?"

This is primarily focusing on the state amendments on the ballot, that if passed by more than 60 percent of the vote get incorporated into the state's constitution. There's two types: ballot initiatives from the citizenry and legislative initiatives from Tall Hassle Tallahassee. So it's imperative to review who's backing what and determine whether or not Florida will actually benefit from the proposal.

This DOES NOT include any review of the Pasco Mosquito Control Board seats, I'll post something about the candidate votes later.

All links bounce to the Ballotpedia site:

This citizens-based amendment basically lets Florida residents produce their own solar energy - through buying or leasing equipment - if they choose. It also allows state and local governments to "protect" those who won't produce solar energy from being required to subsidize any solar energy generation.

It's that second part that bothers me. It's worded to where it would grant the state or county or city governments the power to block any solar energy plans that would - and usually DOES - require subsidizing (i.e., funds from other resources). It can grant a government agency representing something - like, oh, a regional utility company - the power to force all leasing or purchasing of solar equipment from just that one utility (who can then charge exorbitant fees). The opponents arguing against this ballot measure are pointing out how this actually creates an expensive, state-backed monopoly on energy alternatives. 

It's clear when you look at the ballot-backer - a PAC called "Consumers for Smart Solar" - gets funds from major utilities like Duke Energy that the people looking to profit from this amendment's passage are NOT doing so in the people's best interests. I'd actually vote NO against this measure and wait for something better to show.

Amendment 2: Medical Marijuana


The previous attempt at passing a medical marijuana amendment in 2014 barely missed the 60 percent cutoff, so the bill's backers are hoping a strong turnout this cycle - when there's a Presidential election on the line - will bring in enough voters to break that barrier.

The arguments basically remain the same. Proponents view this as a sensible means of granting licensed doctors the power to help pain relief and other medical disorders that can be treated with marijuana. Opponents just hate pot and fear this will open up to recreational drug abuse.

The amendment makes it clear this grants DOCTORS the power to proscribe the drug - much like they could for any other pharmaceutical - and still reflect on the federal guideline that puts Marijuana under a restrictive Class I status.

What I said back in 2014 is what I'll say today:

I'm not a drug user.  I don't use marijuana (although I've known people who have).  I don't smoke nicotine cigarettes (which is more lethal than marijuana yet regulated by the feds).  I don't drink any alcohol, not even wine (again, in excess alcohol can be lethal, yet is still regulated by the feds).  I don't want to see any substance abuse of any kind for kids under 18 (in alcohol's case, the age limit is 21).  These are personal preferences for me.  Yet I don't see the severe harm of marijuana.  The death rate from pot overdose is non-existent: the amount of ingested THC (the chemical that makes marijuana the weed we know today) needed to overdose is thousands of times higher than the regular rate of ingestion.  Nearly every pot smoker just smokes one a day: it would take 20,000 of those rolls in one sitting to kill one smoker.  Even pot brownies - arguably more potent - doesn't have enough THC in it to cause death (diabetes, though...)
This is an amendment worth passing. I'm giving this a huge thumbs up YES.

This is one of those legislative-backed amendments that the Far Right Republicans want to push as a means of tax-cutting without actually get held accountable for tax-cutting.

It's specifically for "First Responders, totally and permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty, to receive relief from ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property." It adds onto the existing Homestead Exemption, I would figure, and would reduce the amount of state and county/municipal taxes raised on residential property.

It doesn't provide tax relief to a lot of people - just the firefighters, cops, medics, or other emergency personnel - disabled/injured in the line of duty. So it doesn't benefit many and it doesn't cut back on a lot of tax revenues, so it's barely beneficial AND barely harmful. There's almost no argument for or against this amendment, which makes it almost neutral in terms of political partisanship. I'm still not a fan of these exemption amendments, so I'd vote No. I'd actually consider a broader-based amendment that would prove more beneficial to more people. I'll expect it to pass simply because enough Floridians won't see the harm in this amendment much like the other exemption amendments they passed in previous years.

Amendment 4: Tax Exemptions for Solar Panels

This already passed: for some reason it was put on the August primary ballot rather than the general election, and garnered about 72 percent of the vote. So... moot point.

Another legislative-backed deal, this one specifically geared for seniors with "homes valued at less than $250,000 owned by individuals over the age of 65 who have lived in the home for at least 25 years. The exemptions would also be available to permanently disabled veterans aged 65 or older and surviving spouses of veterans, or First Responders who died in the line of duty. Seniors would be able to keep their tax exemption even if their home value exceeded $250,000 in the future."

It does have a cutoff for houses worth more than $250,000 which tends to be the average market rate for a 3-4 bedroom homes with garages and indoor plumbing.

It's one of those fluffy-feed-good amendments that make it difficult to contest. Arguably you need to give seniors tax breaks as they're on fixed incomes in retirement, and they do need to afford living in their homes they've owned for ages. My problem with this amendment is that it grandfathers in (pun unavoidable) any homeowner whose property value DOES go up in the foreseeable future. Once it's exempt it's for the life of the homeowner(s). Which could dramatically affect county or city or school board tax collections for much-needed revenues.

Again, I'd argue No on this amendment because it's another questionable attempt to restrict agencies from any revenues to, you know, pay for things while benefiting just a select few residents. Granted, it's not benefiting the uber-rich homeowners, it's just one more paper cut by the Republicans against the state.

So that's my review of the amendments. Yes on 2, No on 1 and No on 3 and No on 5.

Also, a big No on Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott, just because it needs saying.

Thank ye.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Be careful exempting property taxes. That's how prop 13 weaseled its way in in California, and decimated our first-rate schools and made our budgeting process a laughingstock for years.
Do also examine the legislative language of the medical marijuana initiative. We didn't, and in our zeal to somewhat legalize pot on some level, we passed an initiative with enough ambiguity in it that we still suffer federal raids due to not conforming to DOJ policy wording about "clear state statutory intent" or some such horse shit...
We have prop 64 this year, which would legalize it (and regulate and TAX it) for recreational use among adults. I think it's based on the regulation and taxation in place by city governments for medical marijuana, and if so, it should work OK.

-Doug in Oakland