English/Spanish sample ballots are out in Florida now and lets talk about the ballot in general


Link is to a sample ballot for a precinct in Brevard County, Florida, with its Spanish translation

Floridians got some studying to do before November.

U.S. Senate: Bill Nelson v Rick Scott
U.S. Representative: 27 different contests around the State, though I believe 2 Democratic Representatives have been elected without opposition
Governor: Andrew Gillum v Ron DeSantis, plus 4 other tickets, none of which are likely to gain a significant amount of votes.
Attorney General: Ashley Moody v Ron Shaw, plus 1 third party candidate.
Chief Financial Officer: Jimmy Patronis v Jeremy Ring.
Commissioner of Agriculture: Matt Caldwell v Nicki Fried
State Senate Half of the Senate is up for election, 20 contests around the State.
State House: All 120 seats are up for election.
Supreme Court Justice retention: Only newly appointed Justice C. Alan Lawson is up for retention this year, this contest is yes or no.
District Court of Appeals retention: A number of District Court of Appeals Judges are up for retention in yes or no contest.
(Note: To this point, no Justice or Judge has ever failed to be retained in Florida since retention elections began in the 1970’s.)
Various multi-county contests, special district contests, county contests and municipal contests will be on the ballot.

Then we get to the referenda:

Questions 1 through 5 were put on the ballot via citizen initiative:

Question 1: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies. The amendment shall take effect January 1, 2019.

Question 2. Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on specified non-homestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect January 1, 2019.

Question 3. This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.

Question 4. This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.

Question 5. Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district.

Questions 6, 7 and 9 to 13 were put on the ballot by the State Constitutional Revision Commission. Question 8 has been struck from the ballot by the State Supreme Court.

Question 6. Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.

Question 7. Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.

Question 9. Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor-generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.

Question 10. Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even-numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counter terrorism within department of law enforcement.

Question 11. Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.

Question 12. Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.

Question 13. Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.

I should note that while Amendments 1 through 5 and Amendment 13 have received final court approval and will be counted in November, Amendments 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12 are all under litigation. The ballots have all been finalized and printed so all these amendments will appear on the ballot. However, it is possible that several may be stricken by the Supreme Court, in which cases votes for them would simply not be counted.

The problem is that these amendments were “bundled” by the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission and are being challenged by voters as illegally requiring voters to approve something they don’t want, in order to get something they do.

For example, on Amendment 6. Marcy’s law is popular and would be expected to pass by a wide margin. However, the judicial retirement age issue and “chevron deference” issue are riding on the back of Marcy’s law.

At this late date, it would be impossible for the courts to “unbundle” them, so they must either approve them for the ballot as a whole or strike them from the ballot as a whole.

So it is quite possible that several of those amendments ultimately won’t be counted.

As for my opinions of the non-partisan contests and referenda:

I think C. Alan Lawson should be retained on the Supreme Court and all District Court of Appeals Judges should be retained.

Amendments 1 & 2 are not unreasonable and I would vote yes.

Amendment 3 would be a yes as well.

Amendment 4 would be a definite yes.

Amendment 5 would be a no. A 2/3rds threshold is too high, particularly if a crisis situation develops.

Amendment 6 would be a yes, I support all three of the bundled proposals.

Amendment 7 would be a no. The super-majority requirement for raising fees is a deal breaker.

Amendment 9 would be a yes, I support both bundled proposals.

Amendment 10 would be a no, it interferes with county home rule charters.

Amendment 11 would be a yes.

Amendment 12 would be a yes.

Amendment 13 is a reluctant yes. Not really something that belongs in the State Constitution, but I think people are ready to put an end to para-mutual dog racing.

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