The highest profile constitutional amendments on the Nov. 2 ballot involve easing limits on class sizes, forcing voters to decide changes to land-use plans and changing the rules for drawing congressional and legislative districts. But there are two other constitutional amendments and a nonbinding resolution on ballot, and voters should reject all three:
Amendment 1: This amendment would repeal the constitutional requirement for a public campaign financing system for statewide candidates. It was sound policy when voters approved it in 1998, and it is sound policy now.
The law that implements this constitutional requirement enables candidates for governor and Cabinet to receive public matching money for contributions of $250 or less if they voluntarily agree to spending limits. Candidates who participate also get an additional matching dollar for every dollar their opponent spends over the limit. It is designed to prevent wealthy candidates or those with unlimited special interest money from drowning out their opponents.
That's exactly what happened in the Republican primary for governor this year. Rick Scott spent $50 million of his own money to buy the nomination and persuaded a federal court to block his opponent from receiving matching money. Until there is clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court, there is no reason for Florida to take campaign financing out of its Constitution. The campaign finance system is broken, but this is not the way to fix it. The Times recommends a "no'' vote on Amendment 1.
Amendment 2: This is a well-intended effort by the Legislature to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption for members of the military and the Florida National Guard who are deployed overseas. But it is unfair in its application and creates another loophole in a property tax system already full of special breaks.
The amount of the new exemption would be tied to the portion of the year a homeowner was deployed overseas. If the person is deployed for half of the year, the exemption would be 50 percent of the property tax bill. But the amendment does not distinguish between soldiers who are deployed to combat zones and those who are sent to less dangerous areas. Which military operations qualify for the tax break would be left to the Legislature to decide. This also gives a benefit to homeowners that would not be available to other members of the military fighting in the same wars.
Floridians who are serving their country in the military during times of war should be honored. This is not the fairest way to do it. The Times recommends a "no" vote on Amendment 2.
Budget referendum: This is a politically motivated, nonbinding resolution calling for the U.S. Constitution to be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes. The nation must address its deficit spending, but that cannot be done responsibly without both reducing spending and increasing revenue. The Times recommends a "no'' vote.