Getting the vote out and throwing every Republican out of office!
Well, okay, here in Florida it means TWO things:
That first thing, AND we've got another round of Amendment ballot measures to vote on.
Lemme just link here to Ballotpedia for their easy-to-access listing of items on the upcoming November referendum... If you want a different take on the amendments, here's a link to the Tampa Bay Times' recommendations.
As a reminder, there's normally two ways for an amendment to reach the ballot: Legislative Referred, and Initiated (public) Referred. There's also a third way: a Committee Referred from a Constitution Revision Commission that forms every 20 years. This means there can be a sh-t-ton of ballot measures this cycle. Thank God the courts (try to) weed out the bad amendments before they reach the voters...
Here now for your entertainment are the ballots that may be up for 60 percent approval to pass (some of them are still pending judicial review and may be taken off):
Amendment One: Homestead Exemption Increase
The thing I keep worrying about: cutting back on any kind of property tax that would cut into our cities and counties' ability to raise their own revenue to pay for sh-t.
Whenever there's a tax-related referendum, consider this rule: Who Profits From The Tax Cuts? In this case, the amendment offers to raise the Homestead Exemption for properties valued above $125,000 (that is, for families living in the hint expensive suburbs). This takes a lot of property taxes out of county and city coffers, and shifts the tax burden onto property renters and those properties that DON'T make the value range.
On a personal note, the place I live does not value above $125,000. I will miss qualifying for the exemption. So, yeah, f-ck it I have no reason to vote for this bull. Even the ones who DO qualify, just remember this will f-ck up your county's ability to repair your water and electric utilities and your roads and your parks and libraries and your cultural events and...
For the love of God VOTE NO.
Amendment Two: Permanent Cap on NonHomestead Parcel Assessment
Did I stutter? Back to Rule One of any tax-related referendum: who profits from it?
There had been a ten-year cap on tax assessment to avoid making properties more costly at a time (2008) when property values took a serious hit due to the Housing bubble nightmare (you NEED to see the movie The Big Short, okay?). Now that the recession is over and property values are rising naturally in a growing economy, it would be helpful to city and county governments to regain a solid tax base on the property taxes they raise. Making that cap permanent kills our local governments' revenue-raising abilities.
This is a big NO vote, Florida.
Amendment Three: Casino Gambling
On its face, this amendment is requiring that any further Casino/Gambling legislation in the state of Florida depends on the voters passing amendment referendums like this one to allow it.
Just a reminder, gambling is not a harmless vice. It impoverishes people, puts some into debt. While states could raise revenues from managing it - just look at the Lotto system - it can well be a regressive revenue methid. Making it a requirement for the voters to approve of the matter overall doesn't seem like a bad idea.
It's just - like the Tampa Bay Times editorial notes - this is more a matter of the legislature. Requiring a referendum on gambling all the time means extra footwork and debating at a level that most voters might actually tune out.
Personally, I'm ambivalent about this amendment. I'm not a huge fan of gambling - although I may buy a Powerball ticket if the jackpot is over $150 Million (it is?) - but I don't think making extra roadblocks to the debate is a way to resolve it as a political issue.
Amendment Four: Felon Voter Enfranchisement
This is the big one.
One of the Republicans' biggest tricks holding onto power as a Minority Party has been voter suppression. One of the best weapons they have on that is the current laws that prevent convicted felons from keeping their right to vote even AFTER they've served their time and passed parole. SEE Jeb Bush's voter purge before 2000.
Currently there's a system in place where ex-felons have to petition the Governor's office for reinstatement for voting rights, and that is a system where clear bias will filter out all of one party in favor of the Governor's (which has been Republican since 1998). It's a clearly unfair process.
This amendment makes it automatically restore Right-to-Vote for people with prior convictions, except murder and violent sex crimes (those still have to go through the Governor's office, apparently).
This is, essentially, the key to allowing non-violent offenders - mostly those imprisoned for things like drug possession or burglary - regain their rights as citizens with a voice with their vote.
I will argue this is necessity: Isn't the whole point of parole and reform to allow criminals a chance - their RIGHT - to rejoin society? They served their time: Denying the vote is just further punishment. This would be positive reinforcement to encourage engagement in community. This amendment also weakens the abuse of a legal system that has a troubling habit of imprisoning the poor as a means of silencing their power to speak out.
This amendment needs to pass, Florida. Our legislature and Governor's office will fight it because it improves the rights of the poor and the minorities who suffer a disproportionate amount under the current system. Who profits from this amendment? Every resident will.
Amendment Five: Two-Thirds Legislative Vote to Raise Taxes or Fees
If this looks familiar, it's tied into the ongoing wingnut obsession to prevent governments from EVER raising taxes to pay for sh-t.
Thing is, we've SEEN what happens when a state government is unable to break past the 2/3rd tax rule. California had a rule like that - Prop 13 - and for decades they faced ongoing budget woes because enough Republicans squashed any attempt to pass that hurdle.
So California voters turned against the Republicans and voted them out of power. That and their anti-immigrant stance pretty much killed the California GOP.
If this amendment passes, regardless of which party is in control of Florida's government, we will not be able to balance our state's budget through sharing the costs via taxes. Our state would have to cut services, cut school funding, cut environmental support, cut transportation/road repairs, cut family services (which is already an underfunded godless nightmare), cut food stamps, cut everything.
You wanna cap on spending for government services? Force your GOP legislator to man up and get his hands dirty instead of rigging the rules to make it harder no matter what.
This should be the easiest f-cking NO vote on your ballot. This is the Far Right's attempt to kill public services in our state.
Amendment Six: Victims Rights, Judicial Retirement Cap, Agency Deferral in Court Cases
This is one of the Commission ballots, and you're gonna start noticing a weird pattern of... well, dumping different ideas into one container and trying to sell it as a box of gold.
This Amendment actually has three parts: There is a Victims Right part known as Marsy's Law that tries to protect crime victims and their families from harassment and intimidation; There is a part that increases the retirement age of state judges to 75 (to match most others' states); And there is a part that blocks the state courts from deferring to a state agency's expertise on interpreting a law. This is the sticking point: Courts like to get input from the agencies implementing certain laws because the legislatures tend to leave the wording of their laws vague to clear interpretation. By blocking that input, this Amendment would force the courts to rely only on the legislature's intent (which is, again, vague because politicians hate getting nailed to anything).
Just on the third part, you shouldn't consider this Amendment. But the annoying thing here: This is bad law. There's three different provisions to this amendment that ought to be voted on separately.
They're trying to get people to vote for the one thing that matters - the victims' rights - to one thing that the legislature ought to do itself - raise retirement age - and then to one thing that would make our legal system worse - denying courts from getting administrative input.
Just vote NO on this. It's a trap, people.
Amendment Seven: First Responders and Military Survivor Benefits, College Fees, and College System
This is the same problem as Amendment Six. WHAT THE F-CK DOES SURVIVOR BENEFITS HAVE TO DO WITH COLLEGE REFORMS?
Okay. Okay, let's look at the provision that makes this a bad amendment: Forcing the state universities to get a supermajority (9 out of 13) vote from their governing board to raise fees. College has been getting costly, yes, but there are reasons for that and like it or not the universities have to raise fees to keep their doors open. Making it harder to do so would force schools to shut down programs or worse close altogether (SEE the near-destruction of LSU a few years back).
Another thing about the Survivor Benefits portion is that it's useless: Military survivors already get benefits from the federal government and what does this amendment even have to do with that?
Just Vote NO. Please. This is a bad idea. Force the legislature to do its damn job.
Amendment Eight: Already blocked.
Ugh. Let's not even look at why...
Amendment Nine: Offshore Oil Drilling, and Office Vaping
This is an amendment making it harder to drill for oil offshore - which can cause environmental catastrophes - and also make it harder to smoke electronically - called vaping - indoors.
...WHAT THE EVERF-CKING HELL IS THIS?
WHAT DOES OFFSHORE DRILLING HAVE TO DO WITH VAPING???
Okay, look, I know this is an environmental concern, and workplace air quality concern, BUT YOU SHOULD NOT SANDWICH THESE TWO THINGS TOGETHER AND CALL IT A MEAL. I mean, Christ, just focus on the offshore drilling, THAT'S a serious concern and should pass. The vaping thing should be done separately in an actual legislative law. WTF. WTF!!!!!
Ahem. I know people wanna block the offshore drilling and I'm tempted to vote YES myself, so most voters will look past the vaping thing. But seriously people, don't encourage this sh-t.
Amendment Ten: County Agencies and Executive Offices Reforms, Change of Legislative Dates
This is another odd one of mashed-up ideas.
- Requires the state to form a Department of Veterans Affairs (?) and a Department of Counter-Terrorism (???),
- Require the State legislature to convene on the Second Tuesday of January every even year (I think the legislature is a part-time job but do they even show up for odd-numbered years???),
- Prevents county governments from removing certain agencies like the Sheriff's Department and require those departments are elective offices.
My mind boggles at the problems that would arise from a Department of Counter-Terror, something that ought to be and IS handled at a FEDERAL Level. It may help for a retirement state like Florida to have a Veterans Affairs office but how much of it would be overlap with the Federal VA? This just seems like bureaucratic overreach... and I am terrified of the implications of what a Republican-led government would think of as a terrorist group (those a-holes still haven't explained why they spy on Quakers all the time!).
The second part about requiring a different starting date to open the State Lege ought to stand on its own.
What I see happening here is the third part of this bad amendment: What this is doing doesn't make the local governments more responsive to voters, this is making those governments more dependent on state intervention. The state will force certain counties to keep open agencies that they may need to close (if even temporarily) should those agencies go bad or corrupt (hello, problematic Sheriff's departments).
The first two parts of this amendment cannot cover up how much the third part looks and smells like a bad deal. Vote NO on this.
Amendment Eleven: A Catch-All Amendment for Repealing a Lot of Junk?
There's three weird things here as well:
- Getting rid of a constitutional prohibition for "foreign-born persons ineligible for citizenship" from owning or inheriting property;
- Clearing out an obsolete provision for high-speed trains in Florida;
- Ending a confusing provision that "an amendment to a criminal statute does not affect the prosecution of a crime committed before the statute's amendment."
The first part gets rid of aged legal terminology for an Alien Land law that's racist and already proved unconstitutional in other states, so it's something the courts could well take care of on its own. The rest of this looks like it's weeding out bad amendments from earlier eras... but again this is stuff that needs to be done in separate amendments, not one goddamn package of junk.
On this one, I'd vote YES to get rid of the racist stuff in the first part, but I'll be holding my nose when I do so.
Amendment Twelve: Compensation for Public Officials
On the face of it, this amendment "prohibits public officials from lobbying for compensation during the official's term in office and for six years after the official leaves office, and prohibits public officials from using the office to obtain a disproportionate benefit."
It doesn't look wrong, but when you consider it's by the Commission that's offered up a bunch of junk amendments, you need to take a closer look.
This makes it a constitutional limit on lobbying that in most respects should be an Ethics law the legislature should pass and enforce. Putting it into the constitution makes it harder to reform or fix it should unexpected consequences turn up.
I'd hesitate on voting YES on this, if only because - again - this may not need to be so set in stone.
Amendment Thirteen: Dog Races Betting Prohibition
This one again is something that the State legislature could pass as a law, but they're handing it over to the voters because the Lege couldn't be bothered.
The effects of this amendment would likely end dog racing as a sport in Florida, and all things considered I don't think it's an industry that's been doing well lately (the mistreatment of greyhounds is a major problem). On that as a moral issue, I'd vote YES, but again the Lege should be doing this, not the voters.
So that's the amendment ballot for Florida this November.
One troubling thing I'm seeing this year is a mashup of both reform ideas and reactionary sabotage being shoved together in Amendments that would otherwise be treated as separate issues. It's as though the Florida Legislature and the Commission are trying to plug bad laws into the system by using reform ideas that would appeal to an increasingly progressive voter base in Florida (note that a lot of Floridians are pro-marijuana, pro-schools, and pro-environment against the desires of the GOP leadership).
So all in all, PLEASE stay focused on Amendment Four, and probably consider and vote YES on Nine and Thirteen: Make sure those pass. Of the ones to reject, PLEASE reject Amendments One, Two, Five, Six, Seven, and Ten. Seriously, make damn sure One, Two and Five DIE DIE DIE because those will kill our state's ability to raise revenues when we NEED to.
And again a reminder: STOP F-CKING VOTING REPUBLICAN. We've had 25-30 years of their sh-t dominating the Florida State legislature and we've got poisoned waters, collapsing understaffed schools, and an ongoing healthcare crisis that THEY are making worse. It is TIME for different leadership, one that DOES support better education, cleaner environment, and affordable health (hint: DEMOCRATS, YOU PEEPS).
Sigh. Just let me be 100 percent in the right this year, O Lord...