Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Opinion

Thumbs down on the constitutional amendments

Paul Revere, please come to Florida. Just as he alerted his fellow citizens of dangers ahead, we at the League of Women Voters of Florida are warning our fellow Floridians: Our core American principles are at grave risk in Florida.

While most Florida voters are focused on the presidential race, and hopefully about to start watching the debates, there is an effort by our Florida Legislature to upend some of the core foundations of our democracy.

Look no further than the 11 proposed amendments (all authored by our Legislature) that will be on our ballot. Before you put on your spectacles, do you have an attorney? A very smart attorney? To make sense of these proposals, you might need one.

These amendments are some of the most confusing, deceptive and, in some cases, downright dangerous we at the League have ever seen. They attack our balance of power, separation of church and state and propose huge tax loopholes for out-of-state second-homeowners.

Attention Paul Revere. The British had nothing on the Legislature. With Amendment 5, our legislative leaders are seeking to overthrow the balance of power in Florida. How? By a power grab on how our Supreme Court justices are selected, giving the Senate more power to both approve and reject justices, as well as change the rules of the court.

With Amendment 8, our legislative leaders seek to end the time-honored (in place for 126 years) separation of church and state. With a straight face they are calling it "Religious Freedom," even though what it means is that your tax dollars will be taken from our public schools and universities to fund all manner of religious schools that may now promote their own religious indoctrination. Saying "no" to this amendment will not jeopardize existing funding of programs, which provide important services, but will continue to ensure that they do not promote their specific religion.

Other proposed ballot amendments include a free lunch for out-of-state residents: those who own property here but live elsewhere. Do they deserve a homestead property exemption? Picture our critical tax dollars for services flying out of state.

Amendment 3, called "State Government Revenue Limitation," offers a wolf in sheep's clothing, a failed formula that has been a disaster in Colorado, the only state that's tried it. Their Chamber of Commerce called it "financial quicksand," but now it's here to tempt Florida voters like Eve's apple. Misnamed amendments abound, and the League urges voters to give all proposals a firm thumbs down.

By all means examine the language, but at the end of the day, shouldn't tax exemptions for deserving people like disabled veterans be contained in regular statutory law and not in our governing document, the Florida Constitution?

Paul, please come to Florida and sound the alarm: Our core democratic values are at stake, and the Legislature is depending on the fact that most voters do not have the luxury of a smart attorney to sit by their side to help them navigate the Legislature's 11 flawed ballot proposals.

Deirdre Macnab is the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. She wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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