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Our View: Postmortem

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  • | 5:00 a.m. November 14, 2012
  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
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Congratulations to all of the victors, Barack Obama and Joe Biden included.

To paraphrase the words of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, in his letter to the president, Americans “offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America.

“In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good … ”

(The common good: rich, poor; black, white; male, female; young, old; and all in between.)

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A reminder to the victors: You are public servants. We are not your slaves.

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Here are the results from Tuesday, in short: Liberty lost. Statism won.

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On Monday night, Nov. 5, we went to bed a nation divided almost 50-50. On Wednesday morning, Nov. 7, we woke up a nation divided almost 50-50.

The status quo of 2010 prevailed.

Americans contributed $2 billion to two candidates … for nothing. No change.

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This brings to mind the record of SunTrust Chief Economist Gregory Miller’s election predictor, which has yet to be proven wrong: If unemployment and inflation rates are trending downward from January through July 4 in an election year, the incumbent party will win the presidency. They were, and it did.

Miller’s model also has determined that voters typically have made up their minds by July 4. So any money spent on campaigning and media after July 4 is wasted.

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The biggest winners in this election: TV station owners in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania.

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Florida’s presidential election outcome came down to two counties — Miami-Dade and Osceola, two of the most heavily Hispanic counties in Florida. Miami-Dade is 65% Hispanic. Osceola, which is south of Orange County/Orlando and home to many of Orlando’s hospitality-industry employees, is 45% Hispanic.

When you compare the difference between the Democratic Party’s vote totals and Republicans’ vote totals for the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, the results show:

Osceola: Democrats’ victory margin
2008: 19,876 more votes than GOP
2012: 26,620 more votes than GOP
’08-’12 difference: +6,744 votes

Miami-Dade: Democrats’ margin of victory
2008: 139,280 more votes than GOP
2012: 208,174 more votes than GOP
’08-’12 difference: +68,894 votes

When you combine the increase in votes garnered by the Democrats in both counties in 2012, the total is 75,638 additional votes for Obama than he received in 2008.

Obama beat Romney by 73,189 votes.

In short, Hispanics in Miami-Dade and Osceola counties’ carried Obama to victory in Florida.

If Republicans want to turn Florida into a presidential red state, they have two targets: reverse voter trends among Hispanics and in Pinellas (St. Petersburg) and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties, which continue to trend toward Democrats.

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There must be a better way.

Having 11 proposed constitutional amendments on the state ballot is a disservice to Floridians.

Allowing the Legislature not to have to follow the same rules as voter-initiated amendments — i.e., sticking to a single subject and a limit on words — is an equal disservice.

Amendment 4, which had four parts dealing with property taxes, totaled 664 words and almost consumed one-half of a page on the ballot.

It’s absurd to expect 12 million Florida registered voters to research and understand the legalese wording; plus the nuances, background and motivations behind each amendment; plus the expected and unintended consequences of each amendment.

While some news media, such as yours truly, try to explain such details of each amendment, there must be additional and more effective ways to make available information that presents the pros and cons of the proposed amendments.

Likewise, if there were fewer amendments on the ballot, it would become easier and more practical to provide more detailed explanations to the public.

The Florida Division of Elections provides some explanatory material online, but it’s likely the majority of voters don’t know how to find this information. It takes work. And that’s more than should be expected of voters.

As we move increasingly to a digital information world, it is worthwhile to consider requiring attaching a non-partisan analysis of an amendment when a voter searches for amendments on the Florida Department of State Division of Elections website.

At the least, the Legislature and Division of Elections must do a better job of informing and notifying the electorate of the meaning of proposed amendments.

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The issues of too many amendments on the ballot and limiting Legislature-initiated amendments to one subject should top the agenda of Florida’s next Constitutional Revision Commission, which convenes in 2017-18.

The commission also should debate whether to propose an amendment to eliminate judicial retention elections altogether. They’re a farce.

Like voting on constitutional amendments, Floridians have no clue on whom they’re voting in the judicial-retention votes.

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It was no surprise that the only amendments receiving voter approval last week were the three that will give property-tax breaks to combat-wounded military veterans and the surviving spouses of veterans and civilian emergency first responders killed in the line of duty.

Voters also approved giving a property-tax break to low-income seniors who have owned and lived in the same property for 25 years or more.

Obviously, more than two-thirds of Florida voters, to their credit, feel a duty to those who put their lives at risk in defense of our freedom and nation.

But it was a shame that Amendment 3 (state government revenue limitation) and Amendment 10 (tangible personal property-tax exemption) failed.

Amendment 3 seemed like a no-brainer. It proposed to revise the existing limit on government spending, with the provisions that if the state took in more revenue than it needed, the Legislature could designate those extra funds to a rainy-day fund, to lower local school property taxes or send it back to taxpayers. What is not to like?

This amendment received only 42% voter approval.

Amendment 10 would have cut the tangible property tax for businesses. This, too, seemingly was a no-brainer. It would improve Florida’s business climate, giving businesses more money to invest in their companies and, presumably, create jobs. But this one received only 45% approval.

Likewise, it was too bad the Legislature larded up Amendment 4, another property-tax measure, with so many provisions. Three of its provisions make economic sense and would protect all property owners from unjustified and inequitable tax increases. But this measure was so long it’s a surprise it garnered 43% voter approval.

The Legislature never should have placed Amendments 3, 4 and 10 on the ballot. All of these items could have been addressed and should have been addressed as resolutions before the House and Senate.
In spite of the outcome of the election, lawmakers should take up these measures on the floors of the House and Senate. They’re good for Floridians and good for the Florida economy.

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In yet another sign of the economic and political dysfunction that pervades the city of Sarasota, 11,000 city voters — only 30% of registered city voters — voted to retain a city charter amendment that drove Walmart out of Newtown several years ago, costing the Newtown area more than 100 jobs.

This was the infamous “Alternate Minimum Wage” amendment that voters approved in 2007. This amendment requires companies that employ 50 or more and receive an economic-development subsidy from the city must pay a minimum wage that exceeds the federal or state minimum wage.

Corporate subsidies are lousy to begin with, but having laws like this obstructs the city’s ability to attract businesses. Sarasota city and business leaders should continue to try to nuke this law.


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