Thursday, October 18, 2018
Opinion

Column: Florida’s best constitutional amendments ever

On the ballot this November is a historic opportunity for Floridians to vote on the best slate of constitutional amendments ever — a huge property tax cut, term limits for elected officials and cleaning up government corruption.

First, I’ve been working with Gov. Rick Scott since 2010 to cut taxes and keep them low. Together, we’ve cut taxes more than 80 times, totaling $10 billion in cuts. Now, we have put two important amendments on the ballot that will help taxpayers. The first, Amendment One, will deliver Florida homeowners a massive, $637 million tax cut. For the average homeowner, that will be an additional $250 back in your pocket each year.

Unfortunately, there are some politicians who want to turn back the clock and raise taxes, even though Florida’s low taxes have allowed for the creation of more than 1.5 million new private sector jobs. That’s why we also added Amendment Five. If passed in November, this change will require a supermajority vote for the Legislature to pass any new tax. It shouldn’t be easy for politicians to raise taxes and with Amendment Five, it won’t be.

However, we did not add every amendment that will be on the ballot. Some of the others that Floridians should be excited about were added by the Constitution Revision Commission.

Every 20 years, the state of Florida convenes a commission to review and propose revisions to the state’s Constitution. Last year, this commission was assembled and composed of 37 appointees chosen by the governor, Senate President Joe Negron, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, and me. Attorney General Pam Bondi was an automatic appointee.

The members of this commission were responsible for tackling major issues that affect the health and well-being of our state, and I believe many of their constitutional revisions will dramatically improve our state for generations to come.

One of the amendments I am most excited about has to do with cleaning up government corruption. Much to the dismay of the capital cocktail circuit, when I took the gavel as speaker, I implemented an ethics reform package that included a six-year ban on legislators’ becoming lobbyists. It has been called the strongest ban in the nation.

In November, voters will have the opportunity to take that ban and not just make it permanent but apply it to every statewide elected official, legislator and senior-level staff member. This restriction means voters will be represented by individuals who put the interests of their constituents first, instead of trying to cash in on public service.

The commission also took up significant reforms to education. Over the past several years, in partnership with the governor we’ve made education a priority. Our colleges are doing great, and Florida ranks first in the nation for higher education. When it comes to K-12 education, a recent report showed that Florida is one of the only states in the nation to significantly improve math and reading scores. But we can’t stop until every student is afforded a world-class education.

Staying true to the commission’s focus on restoring power and education decisions back to the hands of the students and their parents, voters will decide on implementing term limits on school board members. In many cases, the power accrued by these institutionalized school boards has prevented innovation, competition and improvements in education. Term limits will be a positive disruption to the status quo and allow for fresh ideas and energy.

Also, a student should not be able to graduate without understanding what makes America great. Our founding documents and the values of our free society should not just be taught, but understood by every student who comes out of a Florida school. We addressed this issue in the Legislature last year when we passed a transformational education package. Now, this revision will solidify our efforts by enshrining the importance of civic education in the state’s Constitution.

Some of the other measures on the ballot this year, thanks to the hard work of the Constitution Revision Commission, will be college scholarships for survivors of fallen first responders, explicit rights for victims of violent crimes and protections for Florida’s pristine coastlines.

Over the past eight years, we’ve accomplished a great deal in advancing policies that make Florida second to none. However, the opportunity we have this year to put those reforms and tax cuts into the state’s constitution will have an unparalleled impact on making Florida number one.

Richard Corcoran is speaker of the Florida House and a Republican from Land O’Lakes.

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