Florida is gearing up for one of our country’s most important elections, and the phones at our League office in Tallahassee are ringing off the hook. Why?
They’re not calling about their presidential decision, or the days and places to vote early. They’re calling with an SOS to figure out what the proposed state amendments mean.
All over Florida citizens are feeling under siege. “I thought I was pretty smart!” said one caller, “but I can’t figure these amendments out!”
Titled with names that smack of grandma and apple pie, the amendments go on like a dinner partner that never learned to draw breath. And underneath the lace doily and sweet apple pie names, deceptive consequences lurk.
Eleven amendments, with names like “Religious Freedom”, “Revenue Limitation”, “Public funding for abortion” — titles that will draw citizens like a moth to candlelight.
Legislators put all 11 on the ballot, ducking restrictions that citizen amendments must face, such as summary word limits, clear titles and court review and approval.
Even though a number of these proposals benefit some of the most deserving among us with tax exemptions for disabled veterans, spouses of first responders, and low-income seniors, Florida voters should give all of them a firm thumbs down.
Why should Florida voters say No?
Many of these amendments have to do with tax exemptions. Piecemeal exemptions simply do not belong in a state constitution. Comprehensive tax reform may be warranted, given the current economic conditions and needs of the time, but these exemptions don’t do that. And remember, those who support the idea of giving some special groups additional tax breaks: Are you prepared to pay more, or to have the level and quality of our services such as education and police reduced?
Other amendments strike at core American values such as the separation of church and state. (The “Religious Freedom” amendment would end 126 years of preventing public funding of religions from using public funds for religious indoctrination. Picture millions — potentially billions — in public funds going to any school that calls itself a religion. Are we ready to dismantle our public schools in favor of religious schools?)
Another amendment (No. 8) is titled “Public funding for abortions,” even though there is no public funding for abortions, with either state or federal funds. In fact, this amendment would undermine a woman’s right to privacy in a health decision, and could endanger a woman’s right to have an abortion in the event of imminent death, incest or rape.
And finally, one amendment (No. 5) endangers one of our core values, the balance of power. Initially the Legislature wanted to split the Florida Supreme Court. This bad idea was weakened to simply tilt the playing field toward giving more power to the Legislature. Florida can’t afford to take failed formulas from other states (Amendment No. 3), give bigger tax breaks to out-of-state residents (Amendment No. 4) , or tinker with the tried and true balance of power (Amendment No. 5).
The League urges you to vote No on all the proposed state amendments. Your grandmother would have never baked you a pie filled with these kinds of poison-filled apples!
And finally, take a moment now, and call your supervisor of elections to make sure your registration and address is up to date. It will only take about 10 seconds now over the phone and could save you significant delays when you go to the polls.
Update your registration, print off your ballot and take it to the polls, at www.BeReadyToVote.org.
Deirdre Macnab is state president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, and Maribel Balbin is president of the League in Miami-Dade County.