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3 amendments kept off Florida ballot (please keep reading below to know which amendments will be on the final ballot)

Sept 1, 2010

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

The November ballot just got less crowded.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed lower court rulings to strike three ballot amendments proposed by the Legislature concerning redistricting, the new federal healthcare law and property taxes.

The rulings, all decided by 5-2 vote, mean voters will have their say on only six initiatives on Nov. 2. A separate decision by the high court rejected a challenge to Amendments 5 and 6, the so-called Fair Districts amendments, meaning they will stay on the ballot.


2010 Amendments that were kept OFF Ballot 
9. Nullification of federal health-care law
This amendment would prevent any government from requiring that individuals, employers or health-care providers participate in any health care program. The proposal specifically exempts programs already in effect, which would include Medicare and Medicaid. The proposal allows patients to pay their health-care providers directly instead of going through a third-party insurer

The amendment states, in part:
(1) A law or rule shall not compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system
(2) A person or employer may pay directly for lawful health care services and shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for paying directly for lawful health care services. A health care provider may accept direct payment for lawful health care services and shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for accepting direct payment from a person or employer for lawful health care services.

7. Changes in redistricting that are less restrictive than Amendments 5 & 6
Calling Amendments 5 & 6 unworkable, leaders of the Republican-led Legislature responded by crafting Amendment 7, which they say will complement Amendments 5 & 6 by allowing other factors to be taken into account when drawing district boundaries.

Backers of Amendment 7 say it will help preserve minority-access districts, but critics argue that it is nothing more than an effort to confuse the voters. They say it is written in a way that will override the intended benefits of Amendments 5 & 6 if all three measures pass.  The proposal allows those drawing the political boundaries to take into account "communities of interest.” Such communities have historically been, for example, coastal residents and members of racial or ethnic minorities.

3. Property tax limit for non-homestead property; added exemption for new homestead owners
If Florida voters approve this measure, owners of property that does not qualify for a homestead exemption could see a tax break. The assessed value of such "non-homestead" property cannot increase more than 10 percent a year, according to the state Constitution. Amendment 3 would change that limit to 5 percent. It would also provide an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for property taxpayers who haven't owned a principal residence over the past eight years.

Seven more to Explore
Thus far, six amendments and one referendum have been approved for inclusion in the 2010 ballot. The Florida Legislature may convene again this summer to consider an amendment to ban oil drilling.
AMENDMENTS TO BE VOTED ON THE 2010 BALLOT: Please click on the underlined amendments below to get more detailed information for each.  

1. Repeal of public financing requirement
For more than 20 years, Florida's taxpayers have been subsidizing the campaigns of aspirants to statewide office, a practice enshrined in the state Constitution in 1998. In 2006, the cost was $11.1 million. Charlie Crist, who was elected governor that year, received $3.3 million. Those numbers were higher than in previous years because the Legislature had substantially increased the spending limits. This year, however, the lawmakers decided the program should die.

"Why would we be spending tens of millions of taxpayer money when obviously anyone running statewide is going to be able to get the resources," said Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, a sponsor of Amendment 1.

Republicans in the Legislature supported Amendment 1, while many Democrats voted against it.

"There has not been an outcry to repeal this," said Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise. "The people voted for this. It's wrong to send it back."

2. Tax break for deployed military personnel
This proposed amendment has the blessings of every member of the state House and Senate. It passed unanimously. If voters approve the amendment, the Legislature will be required to provide a homestead property tax reduction to every Floridian serving in the military outside the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii. The amount of the tax break will be determined by the number of days a member serves overseas.

There is no known opposition to this amendment.

4. Florida Hometown Democracy
This amendment would require voter approval of development proposals that conflict with local growth management plans. Its supporters say local governments are entirely too willing to change those plans to accommodate developers and builders. They want to transfer that power to the people.

The amendment's detractors, many of whom are developers, real estate agents or builders, say it would result in giant, complex ballots that would overwhelm and confuse voters. They say the measure would badly damage the Florida economy.

5 and 6. Change in redistricting to thwart partisan advantages

Redistricting is the act of re-dividing the state into new election districts. By law, it happens every 10 years. And each time lawmakers begin the process, which involves using sophisticated computing, it draws intense scrutiny from critics who accuse incumbents of choosing which voters to put in their districts to ensure re-election. A new effort is under way in Florida to change that.

FairDistrictsFlorida.org, a nonpartisan state committee, is working to establish constitutionally mandated fairness standards for the way Florida draws legislative and congressional district lines.

According to FairDistrictsFlorida.org, these amendments would establish fairness standards for use in creating legislative and congressional district boundaries. While protecting minority voting rights, the standards would prohibit drawing district lines to favor or disfavor any incumbent or political party. Districts would have to be compact and utilize existing political and geographical boundaries. In other words, natural competitiveness and fairness would be required.


8. Relaxation of class size requirements
A proposed constitutional amendment passed April 8 by the Florida Legislature would ease the state Constitution’s existing class size rules. Passed by voters in 2002, the Class Size Amendment sets a maximum number of students allowed in classrooms across the state. The new proposal would raise the maximum allowable number of students per class by changing the calculation from per-class maximums to school-wide averages.

The change would allow a school to be over the average in one class provided that excess is balanced by another class at that school with fewer students than the allowable average. Backers say the change would save millions of dollars and give individual schools a measure of flexibility not present in the current law. Opponents say voters clearly wanted to cap class sizes at the levels they passed into law in 2002, and that students and teachers benefit from smaller class sizes. 

Referendum on Deficit Spending
Unlike Florida lawmakers, who must balance state revenues with spending every year, Congress has the ability to spend more than it collects. The federal government’s willingness to use money it doesn’t have has long been a bone of contention among political theorists. The debate has intensified in recent years as the federal government, despite shrinking revenues brought on by recession and tax cuts, has used deficit spending to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bank bailout and an economic stimulus program to boost the country out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The national debt now threatens to exceed the Gross Domestic Product for the first time since World War II. Fiscal conservatives are calling on Congress to close the purse.

The Florida Legislature has placed on the Nov. 2 ballot a nonbinding resolution that asks whether voters support a constitutional requirement that the federal government balance its budget.

The nonbinding resolution reads: "In order to stop the uncontrolled growth of our national debt and prevent excessive borrowing by the federal government, which threatens our economy and national security, should the United States Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes?"
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