October 8, 2012

My Ballot: Rename Florida State Amendments

So what makes my November ballot the longest in history? It's not the presidential race, even with twelve candidates in the running. It's those proposed Florida Constitutional amendments, which are quite wordy and, many times, deceptive. Many of the amendment titles are full of compassion, but are nonetheless misleading. Not one of these amendments was proposed by a citizen or a group advocating on behalf of citizens. They are all coming out of the Florida legislature. The advice coming from many thoughtful corners, such as the League of Women Voters of Florida, is to VOTE NO on all of them.

In an effort to make these amendments more accessible to the average voter, I have re-titled them to reflect their actual content. My son added a few creative flourishes. He's probably responsible for the ones you like the most.

#1 Sore Losers Amendment. The legislature's attempt to thumb their nose at the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Additionally, if the Affordable Care Act were repealed, this amendment would limit potential health insurance reform options at the state level.

#3 Formulaic State Spending Limits (That Might Lead to a Fiscal Crisis) Amendment. This amendment would set a revenue spending cap each year based on population growth and inflation, rather than personal income. Colorado implemented a cap back in 1992 and it went awry. The state was hamstrung in its ability to provide basic services, when the economy faltered.

#5 Power Grab Amendment. The legislature wants to have more control over the judiciary. Are they still mad that the Florida Supreme Court ruled in support of a recount in the 2000 presidential election? This amendment would require Senate confirmation of Florida Supreme Court justices and make it easier for lawmakers to change the process rules in the court system.

#6 Increase Government Regulation of Women's Bodies Amendment. Currently, there is no public funding of abortion, but most of this amendment is dedicated to putting an exclamation on that point. The real meat of this amendment is in the change to privacy law. This amendment would provide an opening to outlaw all abortions in Florida, if Roe vs. Wade were overturned.

#8 Taxpayers Fund Religion Amendment. This amendment deceptively appears to be about religious freedom. It is, in fact, the polar opposite. As it stands now, the state funds many religious programs so long as they do not promote their religion. This amendment would open the door to funding religious activity. Rather than freeing taxpayers with regard to religion, it would force them to pay for religion.

#12 Placate FSU Amendment. The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) oversees the state's public universities. Did you know that students have a representative on the BOG? The chair of the Florida Student Association (FSA), which is comprised of university student body presidents, has a seat at the table. But one University, Florida State University (FSU), chooses not to pay for membership in the FSA. This amendment creates another student bureaucracy so that FSU would not have to participate in the FSA, according to a Miami Herald editorial. I couldn't find any analysis that claimed the current system has a problem. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" would seem to apply here.

Emotional Appeal to Increase Property Tax Loopholes, Amendments #2, #4, #9, #10, and #11. The problem with adding lots of exemptions to property taxes is that for every tax break one person gets, other taxpayers shoulder a heavier burden. These taxes pay for local government services such as police, schools, libraries, and parks. A reduction in these taxes would make it harder for local governments to provide these basic services. Dressing them up so that they help veterans and low-income seniors evokes a sympathetic, emotional response rather than solid analysis. I admit that I am attracted to some of these amendments, but I won't muddy the waters in this short overview.

For those that have waded through the deceptive wording, many have concluded that most of these amendments go against the public interest. For example, if you know someone who has had an insurance claim inappropriately denied, been denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions, or had their premiums go through the roof, you know that health insurance needs regulation. Most folks want to make decisions about having children and not have it forced upon them through regulation. I think most U.S. citizens heartily support religious pluralism and would like to make sure that our government does not favor one religion over another. And yet our elected representatives in Tallahassee put forth ballot amendments that would do the opposite. So, if our representatives are not representing us, who are they representing? The beauty of ballot amendments is that voters can go to the voting booth and represent themselves.

October 10 Update: Progress Florida put together a chart of the ballot amendments showing how various groups recommend you vote. You can read a more detailed analysis of the ballot amendments from the Collins Center.


  1. Love the analysis. Ruth's List Florida joins the League in recommending voting NO on all the proposed state constitutional amendments. Also, please VOTE YES to retain the three Florida Supreme Court Justices on the ballot in Nov. Attempts to unseat them are purely political, following earlier failed efforts for the legislature to grab power over the court. Two of the justices up for retention are the only two women on the court.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly by what you wrote Diane! The amendments were so discombobulated I don't know whether I was voting for or against a lot of the things. I am so glad to receive a "cheat sheet" from the Democratic party as to what to vote for otherwise, I would not have been sure if I had voted for what I believed in!

  3. Excellent blog post. I am fed up with misleading names for amendments especially since our legislators can't always be bothered to read them before voting. The term "political junkie" bothers me because it's not a sick addiction to want to know what laws you are going to have to live by. People in this country take "democracy" for granted and we are not being represented anymore thanks to our own apathy and the willingness of many to be fooled by the GOP's use of God as a marketing strategy.

  4. Concerning Amendment 12, my son pointed me to a couple of articles, which lead to an alternate title - "Placate J.D. Alexander Amendment".

    From the Tampa Bay Times November 12, 2011 article,

    "... Michael Long, the lone student member of the Florida Board of Governors, had just told the audience that Sen. J.D. Alexander threatened to stop supporting higher education if the board didn't make the University of South Florida Polytechnic the state's 12th public university.
    There had been whispers that the bullish Alexander tried to intimidate the board members before the meeting. But of the 15 at the table, the 20-year-old New College sophomore was the only one to directly speak out..."


    A month after this, a resolution was filed to put Amendment 12 on the ballot.

  5. Re - Amendment 12. FSA is a private lobbying organization that requires Dues. FSU and UF were not dues paying members. This Amendment eliminates a private entity from the Fl constitution.