By KrisAnne Hall, Constitutional Education & Consulting, Inc.
The voter is always ultimately responsible for their vote. I do not take responsibility for anyone’s vote; we will all answer individually one day for our choices. With that in mind, be sure that you VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE!
As a general rule, I am opposed to Constitutional Amendments, unless it is a truly Constitutional issue. Our Constitution is supposed to be the Supreme Law of the State, establishing guidelines for government, fundamental rights belonging to Floridians, and principles by which we are to govern. Statutes, on the other hand, are supposed to be the instrument we use to enact laws through legislation in our Republican form of government. Florida has gotten very lazy about these distinctions.
I had hoped we had learned about cluttering up our Constitution when we passed the “pregnant pig” and the “super train” amendments. With those two examples in mind, I would like those who view this guide to keep in mind a few things:
When you vote YES and pass a Constitutional Amendment you are creating a constitutionally protected RIGHT to something which includes the appropriate protections and assignments.
Constitutionally protected rights must be provided under equal access of the law to all citizens of the state, without discrimination, and denies any excuse for deprivation.
If you vote YES and later realize that there are unforeseen negative consequences, the only way to fix that amendment is through another Constitutional Amendment.
The amendment process represents a great expense to the tax payers. Laws should be passed by LEGISLATORS and put into statutes. That is how Republican Governments work. Repealing or amending statutory laws are part of the everyday legislative process. If legislators forget to put something in a law or the law turns out to be a bad idea, the legislators simply amend or repeal the law through proper legislative measures. The Constitution provides the basis for the Legislature to create these laws consistent with the Constitution with language such as “The Legislature may, by general law, enact…” NEARLY EVERY ONE OF THE AMENDMENTS ON THIS BALLOT SHOULD HAVE BEEN RESERVED TO STATUTORY LAW AND NOT CONSTITUTIONAL LAW.
Why would our legislators want to use the amendment process rather than the proper legislative process? In some of these instances, they tried, but the legislation failed. They are cluttering up our Constitution to compensate for failed legislation. Perhaps in other instances, by enacting a law through the constitutional amendment process, they can mitigate their responsibility for the law; after all, it was the “will of the people.” We are a Republic, not a democracy.
If the Legislators insist on using the amendment process instead of the proper legislative process, I frankly see very little need to continue having legislators. We could simply move to a pure democracy, fire all those who feel too burdened to do their job and save some money.
Amendment 1 Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice: (This amendment will add another section to the Constitution – Article X section 29)
Author’s Note: This should NOT be a constitutional amendment. This should be legislation.
A YES VOTE FOR AMENDMENT 1 Would create a Constitutional Right:
- for Floridians to “own or lease solar equipment.”
“ESTABLISHMENT OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT. Electricity consumers have the right to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use.”
This potentially establishes that every single citizen of Florida can go to a solar provider and demand solar equipment based upon their Constitutional Right. Creating a Constitutional Right to solar equipment would potentially open the door for government subsidies and price controls upon solar equipment to ensure that all Florida residents have access to this Constitutional Right. This seems to set up a contradiction within the Amendment itself, as it claims to end consumer subsidizing of solar energy but then creates the potential necessity to subsidize to ensure protection of a Constitutional Right
- for non-solar customers from an alleged “solar customer subsidy.”
The argument in favor of Amendment 1 asserts that solar power users are not supporting a system they are using and this constitutional amendment is necessary “to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.”
In Florida, Residents who have solar energy and tie into the grid are paid for the “extra energy” they produce that is put into the system. In other words, if a resident with solar energy produces more solar power than they can consume, and they are tied into the main electrical grid, that energy can be used by others in the electrical grid. The electric companies are required to purchase excess energy from the solar providers because the electric company is using that energy to supply its customers.
Solar energy owners are providing additional energy and are in fact subsidizing the grid. The electric companies pay the solar energy owners for the additional energy created. Sometimes the extra energy created is greater than or equal to the cost of energy used by the solar energy owner. This does not mean they are not paying for the energy they use, they are simply being paid for the energy they are creating. There is in fact is no such subsidy literally being paid by non-solar customers, so one can only assume that this “protection” will take the form of a “fee” paid by solar users for “maintenance and upkeep of the power grid” or a cessation of payment for the extra energy provided to the grid by solar customers.
- If this amendment is passed, the electric companies will be able take the excess energy from the solar customers and not pay them for it, even though they are using it.
- If this amendment is passed, the use or lease of solar equipment will become a Constitutional Right to which no Floridian could be deprived of for any reason.
- If this Amendment is passed and the people wish to provide just compensation to solar energy owners just compensation in the future, another amendment to do so would have to be passed at the constitutional level.
If this amendment is passed, the solar power owners should detach from the electrical grid and not allow the electric companies to benefit from the energy they produce.
Full Text of the Amendment: http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/64817-1.pdf
Amendment 2. Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions: (This amendment will add another section to the Constitution – Article X section 29)
Author’s Note: This should NOT be a constitutional amendment. This should be legislation. Also, although Florida currently has legislation regarding Medical Marijuana, many see this legislation as impotent. The current legislation only allows for very weak doses of cannibus oil and only for end of life purposes. This Amendment is to specifically allow for treatment of specifically listed diseases.
A YES VOTE FOR AMENDMENT 2 Would create a Constitutional Right:
For Medical Marijuana to be provided as a treatment for patients with the following specific diseases:
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Amendment 2 would also allow licensed physicians to certify patients for medical marijuana use after diagnosing them with some “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”
Ending the Confusion about this Amendment:
- This Amendment, if passed will NOT allow “anyone who wants Marijuana to get Marijuana.” Only patients with the qualifying diseases can obtain prescriptions.
- This Amendment, if passed will NOT legalize recreational Marijuana. Doctors have been writing prescriptions for barbiturates and opiates for decades and we still do not see those drugs legalized for recreational use.
Author’s Note: The medical benefits of Medical Marijuana are widely documented. Most drugs have side effects, some very serious, yet we still allow their use as prescribed by a physician. It is difficult to understand why we wouldn’t want to allow patients to be able to choose from all sources of treatment proven to be effective. The arguments made against appear to not be made against more serious drugs commonly in use such as opioids, barbiturates, narcotics, nor alcohol, all of which are used as legal treatments.
Full Text of the Amendment: http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/50438-3.pdf
Amendment 3 Tax Exemption for Totally and Permanently Disabled First Responders (This amendment will add another section to the Constitution – Article VII, sec 6 & Article XII)
Amendment 3 exemplifies the very argument against legislation through constitutional amendments.
On November 7, 2006, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment known as Amendment 7. This amendment provided a property tax discount on homestead property owned by eligible veterans. To be eligible, a veteran must have an honorable discharge from military service, be at least 65 years old, be partially disabled with a permanent service connected disability all or a portion of which must be combat-related, and must have been a Florida resident at the time of entering military service. Apparently when this amendment was designed, several provisions were left out, for whatever reason. When these omissions came to light and the only way to fix them was through the amendment process. If the original provisions had been passed through the appropriate channels of legislation, a simple amendment to the statute could have been easily passed while the legislature was in session. Floridians incurred not only the cost of employing our legislators to do their job, but the cost of amending the constitution when the legislators didn’t want to, or were unable to do their job.
The same thing could potentially happen if Amendment 3 is passed. This should NOT be a constitutional amendment. It should ONLY be a matter of legislation.
A vote YES on Amendment 3 Would Create a Constitutional Right:
- to a property tax exemption for law enforcement officer, a correctional officer, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, or a paramedic who is classified as “totally and permanently disabled” as a result of an injury in the line of duty. The terms “totally and permanently disabled” are NOT defined in the amendment and will need further definition by legislation.
- to a property tax exemption based solely upon occupation. This would create a constitutional right that is not applied to all citizens equally.
Full Text of the Amendment: http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/10-92.pdf
Amendment 5 Homestead Tax Exemption for Certain Seniors, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination of Just Value (This amendment will add another section to the Constitution – Article VII, sec 6 & Article XII)
Same issues as amendment 3.
This should NOT be a constitutional amendment. It should ONLY be a matter of legislation.
A vote YES on Amendment 5 Would Create a Constitutional Right:
- to a property tax reduction for “certain” seniors, low-income, long-term residents.
- that is not applied to all citizens equally, but only available to certain classes of citizens.
Full Text of the Amendment: http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/10-94.pdf