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Three amendments worth a 'yes'

  • Longboat Key
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Here we are again, on the cusp of another round of voting on amendments to the Florida Constitution.

There are no “pig-cage” amendments on this year’s ballot, but as always, there are controversial proposals. In the past two months, Florida judges have struck three of nine proposed amendments from the ballot, and those rulings all are being appealed.

One proposal would have provided higher-than-normal homestead property-tax exemptions to homebuyers and capped the maximum annual increase in assessed values at 5% instead of the current 10%. Another proposed amendment attempted to imbed in the constitution that Floridians cannot be forced to join a government-run health insurance plan. And the third proposal to be struck dealt with the way legislative districts must be drawn. State judges said all three measures were vague and misleading.

We’ll soon find out if the Florida Supreme Court agrees.

Meantime, six proposed amendments are still on the statewide ballot, although even three of those are awaiting final state Supreme Court approval.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll analyze the amendments and provide recommendations. Our analysis always applies a fundamental question that serves as the basis for our recommendations: Does the proposed amendment protect and expand individual freedom, or does it restrict freedom? Almost always, if the answer is it protects and expands freedom, we recommend a yes. If not, vote no.

In this week’s installment, we address Amendments 1, 2 and 8.

Amendment 1

Article VI, Section 7. Summary: This proposes the repeal of the provision in the state constitution that requires public financing of campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office who agree to campaign spending limits.

Back in 1998, the Constitution Revision Commission managed to get on the ballot a sweeping amendment that included six changes related to elections. This was on top of 11 other proposed amendments on the ballot. Voters were overwhelmed.

Of the six changes in the elections amendment, four were good. The mangy dog in the pack was the creation of taxpayer-financed campaigns. As usual, there was all kinds of prattle about big-money buying elections and how public campaign financing would “level the playing field” for the little guy/gal running against the rich guy/gal.

We advocated against public financing of political campaigns back then. Talk about criminal looting and a horrible transfer of wealth. Worse, we all know the saying about “voting for the lesser of two evils” — two candidates you don’t support. It makes no sense for your tax dollars to help elect evil.

When put to the freedom test, Amendment 1 passes. It will give us more freedom; more freedom by taking power away from government bureaucrats to waste your money on enriching sleazy advertising agencies and political hatchet men who produce those slimy, mudslinging campaign ads.

Vote yes.

Amendment 2

Article VII, Section 3, Section 31. Summary: To require the Legislature to provide an additional homestead property-tax exemption by law for members of the U.S. military or military reserves, the U.S. Coast Guard or its reserves or the Florida National Guard who receive a homestead exemption and were deployed in the previous year on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The exempt amount will be equal to a percentage of the taxable value of serviceman’s homestead property. The applicable percentage shall be calculated as the number of days during the preceding calendar year the person was deployed on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature divided by the number of days in that year.

Typically, subsidies of any kind should be despised; they’re an unearned benefit.

But it’s difficult to reject a subsidy when it comes to those who voluntarily sacrifice and put their lives at risk in defense of our freedom and nation.

They volunteer to give up a lot — their families and personal safety and security, topping the list. There often is an opportunity cost. Many service men and women postpone their ability to advance in the private-sector work place.

As part of paying our debt to our armed forces for protecting our freedom, this subsidy would be a small price.

To some extent, you could argue Amendment 2 adds to our freedom. It rewards those who protect us, our nation and our freedom. Vote yes.

Amendment 8
Article IX, Section 1; Article XII, Section 31. Summary: The Florida Constitution currently limits the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public-school classrooms in the following grade groupings: for pre-kindergarten through grade three, 18 students; for grades four through eight, 22 students; and for grades nine through 12, 25 students. Under this amendment, the limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher would become limits on the average number of students assigned per class to each teacher, by specified grade grouping. This amendment also adopts new limits on the maximum number of students in an individual classroom: for pre-kindergarten through grade three, 21; for grades four through eight, 27; and for grades nine through 12, 30. This amendment specifies that class-size limits do not apply to virtual classes, requires the Legislature to provide sufficient funds to maintain the average number of students required by this amendment and schedules these revisions to take effect and to operate retroactively to the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

The original amendment limiting public-school class sizes never should have passed to begin with in 2002.
It took Floridians eight years to figure out the consequences that opponents spoke of then, namely it would be cost prohibitive. Yes, small class sizes are good. But they are not the magic elixir that automatically results in better student performance.

This amendment is a step toward more freedom. Let school districts decide their own class sizes. A better amendment would eliminate limits on class sizes altogether. Vote yes.

Next installment: Amendments 5 and 6 on redistricting. Final installment: Amendment 4, “hometown democracy.”

To download at a table of the town's pension plans for the last 11 years, click here.


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