Published On: Fri, Oct 26th, 2018

It’s Time for You to Make Yourself Heard – Early Voting Continues Through November 4th

By: Robert S Weinroth

 

Election Day is a bit of a misnomer these days, with the opportunity to Vote by Mail or Early Vote. In addition to the candidates vying for office, there are a multitude of ballot questions voters will be asked to review during the general election. Eight of the questions were placed on the ballot as a result of the Constitutional Revision Commission (one of them was removed from the ballot by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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 at the poll:

 

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 / 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: The Supreme Court of Florida eliminated this question. As a result, on your ballot, the questions will skip from 7 to 9.

 

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.

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

 

COUNTYWIDE QUESTION: To Approve Ad Valorem Levy for School Safety, Teacher & Operational Needs.

This proposal (only on the ballot for Palm Beach County voters) would give the School Board of PBC the authority to levy a 1 mil property tax dedicated for operational needs of non-charter District schools to fund school safety equipment, hire additional school police and mental health professionals, fund arts, music, physical education, career and choice program teachers and improve teacher pay beginning July 1st 2019 and automatically “sunset” on June 30th 2023.

If the tax levy is rejected by voters, the district will be required to immediately cut $48 million from its budget. Inasmuch as the previously approve tax was used to support 650 arts and elective teachers, it is likely this would be the target of the immediate cut in spending.

If the Question is approved, $100 million will be used to supplement teacher salaries in an effort to reduce the teacher turnover. Teachers with one to five years on the job would get $1,000 a year. Teachers with six to nine years of experience would get $5,000 a year. Teachers with 10 or more years of experience would get $10,000 a year. These bonuses would “sunset” on June 30th 2023.

In addition, $50 million would support STEAM (continuing the arts programs and provide funding for the district to hire additional elective teachers and $50 million would pay for additional school security officers and mental health counselors, as ,am dated by the Stoneman Douglas act, signed earlier this year by Governor Rick Scott.

The tax would allow the district to double the size of its police force with the necessary equipment to discharge their responsibility providing every elementary school with an officer on campus. Middle schools would be assigned two officers and high schools would have two or three, as required.

Voters are strongly urged to consider EARLY VOTING (between now and November 4th– 7AM – 7PM, daily) to avoid the anticipated long lines at the polling locations on Election Day (November 6th). 

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.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>