Published On: Sun, Oct 7th, 2018

With 30-Days Before Election Day Vote by Mail Ballots Have Arrived

By Robert S Weinroth

In just another month, it will be safe to answer the phone again and you won’t be making as many trips to the recycle pail with the latest mailer from a candidate seeking your vote. This election season feels like it’s been going on forever. The August primary and Special Boca Raton municipal election (which required a recount to determine the winner of the open City Council seat), was decided a  little over a month ago. We are now on the final lap of this cycle’s elections. With the appearance of Vote by Mail (Absentee) ballots in many mail boxes throughout the community, the final sprint to the finish line is about to begin.

Along with the many candidates vying for your vote for over a dozen offices (including Governor, US Senator, Member of Congress, Governor’s Cabinet (Attorney General, CFO and Commissioner of Agriculture) County Commissioner District 4, 7 judges and two members of the Soil & Water Conservation District), voters are being asked to wade through three pages of ballot questions. Eight of the questions were placed on the ballot as a result of the Constitutional Revision Commission.

Pursuant to Article XI, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution, a 37-member revision commission is established once every 20 years for the purpose of reviewing Florida’s Constitution and proposing changes for voter consideration.

The CRC met for the past year, traveling the State of Florida, identifying issues, performing research and recommending possible changes to the Constitution. Amendments approved by the CRC are placed directly on the ballot where, as with all other ballot questions, 60 percent of the vote is required for each amendment to be approved.

The 2017-2018 CRC combined approved revisions into eight proposals. In some cases, voters will be faced with revisions where they support only part. Approval of a proposed revision will enact all matters contained within each proposed revision.

The following is a summary of the proposals. To review the full language of the proposals, go to: http://flcrc.gov/PublishedContent/ADMINISTRATIVEPUBLICATIONS/CRCFinalReport.pdf

Here are the questions you will face on the ballot:

QUESTION 1: (Placed on ballot by legislature)

This proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution would increase the Homestead Property Tax 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, if approved by 60 percent of the voters will take effect January 1, 2019.

According to an analysis by the League of Women Voters of Florida (which, along with the Florida Policy Institute; Florida League of Cities; Progress Florida; Florida Education Association; and Florida Association of Counties oppose the amendment), the new provision would:

  • Allow homeowners to deduct up to another $25,000 from the taxable value of a home worth more than $100,000, starting on Jan. 1, 2019.
  • – Exclude local school taxes from the new exemption;
  • – Cost Florida’s cities, counties and other taxing authorities an estimated $687.5 million annually, starting in 2019 (over $27 million in Palm Beach County); and
  • – Likely result in cuts to services or higher local rates to make up for the revenue losses, or possibly both.

QUESTION 2: (Placed on the ballot by legislature)

This is a companion to Question 1 dealing with non-Homestead real property. This is a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution would permanently retain a limit on property tax assessment increases, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved by 60 percent of the voters, the amendment would remove the scheduled repeal of the cap in 2019.

According to an analysis by the League of Women Voters of Florida (which, along with the Florida Education Association, oppose the amendment), the new provision would:

  • – Make permanent the 10 percent limit on increases in tax value for non-homestead property, thus reducing tax bills; and
  • – Continue to deny local governments (excluding school districts) tax revenue they would otherwise collect from rising property values.

QUESTION 3 is a Citizens Initiative that would require approval of any new casino gambling through a citizen-initiative constitutional amendment (effectively barring the Legislature from making those gambling decisions by passing laws and bar the Constitutional Revision Commission from addressing this issue). The League of Women Voters of Florida, No Casinos, Inc. and Disney support the approval of this Question.

If approved by 60 percent of the voters, it will require voters approve a constitutional amendment through citizen initiative to authorize any new casino gambling in Florida, essentially stripping that authority from the Legislature.

  • It precludes constitutional approval of casinos through other means, including amendments offered by the Legislature or by the CRC;
  • It continues to allow the Legislature to approve other types of non-casino gambling, such as poker rooms, bingo, lotteries and fantasy sports;
  • It allows the Legislature to oversee, regulate and tax any casino-type gambling that voters approve through a constitutional amendment; and
  • It would have no affect on the state’s ability to negotiate casino agreements with Native-American

QUESTION 4 is also a Citizens Initiative known as the Voter Restoration Amendment. Which would amend the Florida Constitution so that most ex-felons who have completed their full sentences, including paying fines, paying restitution, doing their prison time and completing parole or probation, would be granted the right to vote. It would not grant any other rights that ex-felons lose, including the ability to sit on a jury, hold public office or possess a firearm.

If approved by 60 percent of the voters, people convicted of felonies – excluding those convicted of murder or felony sex crimes – would be eligibility to vote after completing all the terms of their sentence. The Governor’s Clemency Board studies have shown that recidivism rates drop about 30% if person has their voting rights restored. Another study shows that with a lower recidivism rate, costs of incarceration go down, employment goes up and that the positive impact on the Florida economy is $365 million per year.

This proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution is supported by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition; Floridians for a Fair Democracy; American Civil Liberties Union; League of Women Voters of Florida; Progress Florida; Florida Policy Institute; Florida Education Association; and Florida National Organization for Women. It is opposed by Floridians for a Sensible Voting Rights Policy.

QUESTION 5: (Placed on ballot by legislature) would also amend the Florida Constitution This proposed amendment would require that all increases in taxes or fees, or the creation of any new taxes or fees pass both chambers of the Florida Legislature by a two-thirds vote.

Under current law, nearly every bill related to taxes or fees must pass the state House and Senate by a simple majority. The amendment would dramatically expand supermajority requirements to include taxes on sales, gasoline, alcohol and unemployment, as well as fees for fishing, drivers licenses and concealed firearms licenses, to name a few. Also, while bills in the Legislature often contain multiple provisions, this amendment would require that any tax or fee increase stand by itself in a separate bill.

The amendment would not place any limits on tax or fee increases by local governments, such as cities and school boards, joining about a dozen other states that require supermajority votes to raise taxes.

Florida Tax Watch and the Florida Chamber of Commerce support question 5. The League of Women Voters of Florida; Florida Policy Institute; Progress Florida; and Florida Education Association opposes it.

QUESTION 6 is the first of a series of proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution proposed by the Constitutional Revision Commission (which meets every 20 years).  In a departure from the rules followed by legislative and citizen initiatives, more than one subject can be included in each question presented to the voters. However, due to challenges to the proposed amendments QUESTION 6 (along with QUESTION 8 and QUESTION 13 have been removed from the ballot due to judicial challenges. However, those decisions have been appealed).

QUESTION 6 / CRC Revision 1: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges.

The proposed revision would revise and establish additional rights of victims of crime; and increase the age after which a justice or judge may no longer serve in a judicial office; and require a state court or an officer hearing an administrative action to interpret a state statute or rule de novo in litigation between an administrative agency and a private party.

If approved by 60 percent of the voters, this revision would:

  • Enshrine in the state Constitution an array of victims rights, many of which are currently in state law;
  • Place new time limits on filing appeals;
  • Require that victims receive some type of written notification of their rights;
  • Eliminate an existing constitutional provision that ensures victims’ rights don’t infringe on the rights of accused criminals;
  • Raise the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices and judges from 70 to 75; and
  • Prohibit courts and judges from deferring to an administrative agency’s interpretation of state laws or rules when deciding cases.

While 37 Florida sheriffs and Florida Smart Justice support QUESTION 6, the Florida Public Defender Association; ACLU of Florida; League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida Education Association oppose it.

QUESTION 7 / CRC Revision 2: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges & Universities.

The proposed revision would establish minimum vote thresholds for university boards of trustees and the board of governors to impose or authorize a new fee or increase an existing fee, specify the purposes of the State College System and provide for the governance structure of the system; and establish the right of survivors of specified first responders and military members to death benefits.

The League of Women Voters of Florida offers the following analysis (should this revision be approved by 60 percent of the voters):

  • It would force universities’ boards of trustees and the state Board of Governors to get supermajority approval from their members to increase student fees or impose new ones;
  • It would make the governing framework for state colleges a part of the Constitution;
  • It would create a constitutional requirement for state and local governments to pay death benefits to first responders;
  • It would expand the definition of first responders under state law to include paramedics and emergency medical technicians;
  • It would require the state to provide death benefits to members of the U.S. military who are either residents of Florida or who are stationed in the state; and
  • It would create an undetermined financial burden on local and state government from paying death benefits to a larger group of first responders and members of the military. The amendment does not specify a funding source for those payments.

Approval of this revision is supported by the Association of Florida Colleges and opposed by the League of Women Voters of Florida; Florida Education Association.

QUESTION 8 / CRS Revision 3: School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools. (This question was removed from the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court. The ballot questions skip from Question 7 to Question 9).

The proposed revision would have established a limitation on the period for which a person could serve as a member of a district school board; it would also have specified which schools are operated, controlled, and supervised by a school board; and require the Legislature to provide for the promotion of civic literacy in public education.

QUESTION 9 / CRC Revision 4: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces.

The proposed revision would prohibit the drilling for exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas in specified state waters; and establish a general prohibition on the use of vapor-generating electronic devices in enclosed indoor workplaces.

This proposal is supported by the Florida Wildlife Federation; Gulf Restoration Network; American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; League of Women Voters of Florida; and Florida Policy Institute; Progress Florida. Opponents include the Florida Petroleum Council; Associated Industries of Florida; Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association; Florida Education Association; and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

QUESTION 10 / CRC Revision 5: State and Local Government Structure and Operation.

The proposed revision would provide the Legislature convene for regular session on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in January of each even-numbered year; establish the Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the FDLE; require, rather than authorize, the Legislature to provide for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and prescribe its duties by general law and to remove the authority of a county charter or a special law to provide for choosing county officers in a manner other than election and to prohibit a county charter from abolishing county officers, transferring the duties of a county officer to another officer or office, changing the length of  terms of county officers, or establishing any manner of selection of county officers other than by election.

This revision is opposed by both the League of Women Voters of Florida; Florida Education Association

QUESTION 11 / CRC Revision 6: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes.

The proposed revision would to remove a provision authorizing laws that regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship; remove prohibition on the retroactive application of changes in criminal laws to punishment of previously committed crimes; and delete an obsolete Constitutional provision regarding the development of a high speed ground transportation system.

This revision is supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and opposed by the Florida Education Association.

QUESTION 12 / CRC Revision 7: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers.

The proposed revision would create a new section of the State Constitution to establish certain restrictions for specified public officers and the judiciary regarding lobbying for compensation of another person or entity before certain government bodies and to prohibit the abuse of a public position by public officers and employees.

Supporters: Integrity Florida; Common Cause; and the Florida Policy Institute; Opponents: Florida Education Association, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce

QUESTION 13 / CRC Revision 8: Ends Dog Racing  (A circuit judge has removed the greyhound-racing ban from the November ballot. That decision has been appealed by the state,  keeping the measure alive — at least for now. If the question is invalidated before November 6th, votes on this question will not be counted)

The proposed revision would prohibit the racing of, and wagering on, greyhounds and other dogs after a specified date.

Supporters: Grey2K USA and the League of Women Voters of Florida; Opponents: Florida Greyhound Association; Florida Education Association; and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

It is clear, with 10-13 questions to read and consider, voters are strongly urged to consider securing Vote by Mail ballots to avoid the anticipated long lines at the polling locations.

It’s not too late to apply for your Vote by Mail (Absentee) ballot in Palm Beach County, go to the Supervisor of Elections office or apply online at: www.pbcelections.org/items.aspx?id=28

 

Be an informed voter. Don’t wait until you vote (either by Absentee ballot, Early or on November 6th). Review the questions. If you have not requested a Vote by Mail (Absentee) ballot, the Supervisor of elections will be sending you a sample ballot. Feel free to mark your answers on the sample ballot. You can bring it with you when you go to the polls.

Also, remember, if you vote early you can go to any of the Early Voting locations. If you vote on Election Day (November 6th 2918), you must give the precinct you were assigned (available on your Voters Registration Card or online). If you received a Vote by May (Absentee) ballot, bring it to the poll so it can be voided and a new ballot will be  prepared for you.

Early Voting Dates: October 22, 2018, through November 4, 2018.

Voting Times: 7AM – 7PM Daily

Voting Locations

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. As a newly elected County Commissioner, Weinroth has been appointed Vice-Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

Displaying 2 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Regarding Amendment 13 – The Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state and kept Amendment 13 on the ballot. It is there to stay. Voters will be able to vote yes and finally end the cruelty.

  2. Gerald Mosak says:

    How does one find out about any of the candidates for the Soil and Water District positions? Does any source provide opinions as does the Tampa Bay Times on other candidates for office? Need some guidance in this matter.
    Thank You,
    Jerry Mosak

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