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Hi All,

I haven't posted here in a while but I thought I'd share this information that someone sent me. I don't know about you but the little blurb they put on the ballots isn't usually sufficient for me to gain a better understanding of what the proposed amendments are about. Feel free to share this information with others in FL before the election. Hope you all get out and make your voices heard. I think it's about time.

TheSaiga308


Do You Understand the Constitutional Amendment Proposals on the Nov. 2 Ballot?



October 14, 2010

Dear Neighbor,

In just a few days, Florida voters will decide who will represent us
in the United States Senate and will choose our next Governor, Cabinet
officers, legislators, county commissioners, school board members and
other officeholders. We’ll also determine the fate of six proposed
amendments to the Florida Constitution.

While nearly all the attention in this election season has been
focused on candidates and campaigns, the Constitutional amendments may
have more bearing on our communities, our schools, our political
freedoms and our lives.

Recently, I sent you an analysis of the six proposed amendments by the
LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University. That email
report generated many excellent comments and questions, including
requests that we pass along any other explanations of these proposals
by other groups that are non-partisan and don’t have “a dog in the
fight.”

The James Madison Institute is a Florida “think tank” which researches
and reports on public policy issues. JMI is non-profit, non-partisan
and does not endorse any political candidates. By way of full
disclosure, I served on the JMI Board of Directors for two years prior
to my election to the Senate in 2006. However, I had no role in the
James Madison Institute’s review of the 2010 Constitutional
amendments.

Because the James Madison Institute is a well-respected source of
reliable information, what follows is their analysis of the amendments
you and I will vote on, on November 2 or sooner, if we are absentee or
early voters.

For more information about the James Madison Institute, go to
www.jamesmadison.org.

Thank you for taking seriously our sacred obligations and privileges
as citizens and voters. Please stay in touch and share your comments
and concerns on any issue. Your insights, criticisms and guidance
make me a better senator.


Respectfully,
Senator Don Gaetz


VOTER GUIDE FOR THE 2010 STATE BALLOT PROPOSALS

Editor’s Note: Three amendments – approved by the Legislature and
originally scheduled to be numbered as Amendments 3, 7, and 9 on the
November ballot – were struck down by the Florida Supreme Court and
removed from the ballot. Therefore, no discussion of them appears in
this article. To read about the amendments that were removed, click
here.

Meanwhile, as of this writing, the Florida Supreme Court had also
agreed to review a challenge to Amendment 8, which would modify the
2002 Class Size Amendment. The teachers union sued, alleging that
Amendment 8’s ballot language could confuse voters. A circuit court
judge disagreed with the union’s argument, but the case ultimately
will be decided by the high court. If the Court agrees with the union,
then any votes actually cast for or against Amendment 8 will be null
and void.

AMENDMENT 1
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT,
ARTICLE VI, SECTION 7

REPEAL OF PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING REQUIREMENT
.
Proposing the repeal of the provision in the State Constitution that requires public financing of campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office who
agree to campaign spending limits.
To read the full text of the proposed amendment, click here.

Sponsor: The Florida Legislature

Background: Since 1986, Florida law has offered public financing for
the political campaigns of certain candidates for statewide office. In
1998, Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission placed on the ballot
an amendment – subsequently approved by voters – enshrining this
option in the State Constitution. Candidates may receive public funds,
but only if they agree to limit their own campaign spending.
Participating candidates may receive contributions from the Election
Campaign Financing Trust Fund, plus additional subsidies if a
non-participating opponent spends more than $2 per registered voter –
currently just under $25 million. In June, gubernatorial candidate
Rick Scott sued in federal court to challenge the practice of
providing subsidies to his opponent if Scott exceeded the
$2-per-registered-voter limit. He argued that the spending limit was a
burden on his right of free speech. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals agreed and issued an injunction that prohibited his primary
opponent, Bill McCollum, from receiving the additional public funds
for his campaign. If Amendment 1 passes, Article VI, Section 7 of the
Florida Constitution would be repealed, leaving only the statutory
provisions for public campaign financing.

Analysis: Several recent court decisions suggest that some of the
spending-limit provisions found in many public campaign financing
laws, including Florida’s, may very well violate certain candidates’
First Amendment rights. Supporters of these laws claim they help
ensure fairness, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court’s recent ruling in
the case brought by Rick Scott affirmed that it is not fair to
penalize candidates for spending their own money for their political
campaign, regardless of the amount spent. It’s also worth recognizing
that the financial and economic situation in 1998 when Florida’s
Constitution Revision Commission placed the original public campaign
financing requirement on the ballot was much better than it is today.
At present it is difficult to justify potentially spending millions of
taxpayer dollars in each election cycle on campaigns when that money
could either stay in the pockets of taxpayers or be applied to fund
essential state services.

Pro: Proponents of Amendment 1 wish to repeal the state Constitution’s
provision on campaign financing. They argue that tax dollars should
not be used to fund political campaigns, especially during periods of
budget austerity. They also note that in the nine states where public
funds can be used to aid political campaigns, there is no evidence to
support the notion that this practice has helped lesser-known or minor
party candidates compete more effectively.

Con: Opponents of Amendment 1 point out that voters in 1998 approved a
constitutional amendment providing for public financing of political
campaigns, and that the problem the amendment was intended to address
persists: that candidates who lack personal wealth necessary to fund a
statewide campaign from their own pocket find it difficult to compete
against wealthy individuals or well-established candidates,
particularly incumbents.

Recommendation: On balance, the proponents’ positions are more
persuasive. Therefore, we recommend YES on Amendment 1.

AMENDMENT 2

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
ARTICLE VII, SECTION 3; ARTICLE XII, SECTION 31

HOMESTEAD AD VALOREM TAX CREDIT FOR DEPLOYED MILITARY PERSONNEL.

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require the
Legislature to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption
by law for members of the United States military or military reserves,
the United States Coast Guard or its reserves, or the Florida National
Guard who receive a homestead exemption and were deployed in the
previous year on active duty outside the continental United States,
Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the
Legislature. The exempt amount will be based upon the number of days
in the previous calendar year that the person was deployed on active
duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in
support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The
amendment is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011.
To read the full text of the proposed amendment, click here.

Sponsor: The Florida Legislature

Background: On February 11, 2009, Rep. Mike Horner filed House Joint
Resolution 833 which originally proposed this constitutional
amendment. The Senate version, Senate Joint Resolution 1302, was
subsequently filed by Sen. Andy Gardiner. After clearing committee
assignments, the amendment passed out of the Legislature unanimously
on May 1, 2009.

Analysis: There are more than 25,000 active duty military personnel
who live in Florida. Allowing this additional tax exemption would
recognize their service and sacrifice.

Pro: Proponents argue that this additional property tax exemption
would provide financial help to military personnel and their families
when the personnel are deployed abroad.

Con: There is no formal opposition to this measure, but it could
slightly reduce property tax revenues that support services provided
by local governments and school districts.

Recommendation: The fiscal impact on local governments would be minor,
while the financial aid for military personnel who are deployed abroad
could pay dividends by solidifying Florida’s standing as a place where
military personnel are welcome to live and to retire when their active
duty ends. Therefore, we recommend YES on Amendment 2.

AMENDMENT 4
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT,
ARTICLE II, SECTION 7

REFERENDA REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION AND AMENDMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
COMPREHENSIVE LAND USE PLANS
. Establishes that before a local
government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a
comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be
subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum,
following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by
the governing body and notice. Provides definitions.
To read the full text of the proposed amendment, click here.

Sponsor: Florida Hometown Democracy, Inc.

Background: Amendment 4 is a citizen-driven, initiative petition
proposal led by Florida Hometown Democracy, Inc. and Lesley Blackner,
an environmental lawyer from West Palm Beach. This amendment was
originally approved by the Division of Elections in June 2005, and the
ballot summary was approved by the Florida Supreme Court in September
2006. The proposed amendment made the ballot in June 2009 after the
necessary 676,811 signatures were gathered and certified by the State.
Since this time, the amendment has withstood several legal challenges,
and complaints to the Florida Elections Commission, to remain active
for the November ballot.

Analysis:This proposed amendment would require voter approval of
proposals that change local growth-management plans. Comprehensive or
“comp” plans, as they are known, are blueprints that cities and
counties use to lay out a vision of future communities. An argument
can be made that voters are already in control of comprehensive plans
by electing city and county officials who best represent their views
on development.

Pro: Supporters claim that voters deserve “a seat at the table” on
growth decisions in their city or county for issues affecting their
homes and our communities. They say Amendment 4 will endthe atmosphere
of corruption and distrust in local government by giving voters the
ability to veto or approve new projects and changes to existing
developments, thereby fixing the broken system currently in place.
Proponents also claim that Florida’s real estate bust and the related
foreclosure crisis were caused in part by overdevelopment that
occurred when elected city and county officials too easily approved
the plans of developers from whom they regularly receive large
campaign contributions.

Con: Opponents say that Amendment 4 will cost jobs and hurt Florida’s
economy by stifling growth, thereby costing taxpayers millions of
dollars. They also claim that the amendment is poorly written and
doesn’t provide exceptions for vital community needs such as
hospitals, police stations, and schools. Some opponents also claim
that Amendment 4 paradoxically could create more of the urban sprawl
that its advocates decry by forcing developers to look for lands on
the urban fringes where their plans would be less likely to meet
resistance from nearby neighborhoods. Opponents also note that because
of the large numbers of comprehensive plan amendments proposed in many
jurisdictions during each election cycle, the presence on the ballot
of scores of highly technical questions may exacerbate Election Day
congestion at polling places. However, by far the most persuasive
argument against Amendment 4 may be the experience of St. Petersburg
Beach, where a local version this measure has been blamed for causing
higher taxes, a loss of jobs, and endless litigation.

Recommendation:The evidence against Amendment 4 is overwhelming.
Currently, more than 334 organizations, associations, and local
governments, plus every daily newspaper in the state, have taken a
position against this amendment…and for good reason. Because of the
detrimental impacts this amendment would have on Florida’s economy
and on citizens’ property rights, we recommend NO on Amendment 4.

AMENDMENT 5
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT,
ARTICLE III, SECTION 21

STANDARDS FOR LEGISLATURE TO FOLLOW IN LEGISLATIVE REDISTRICTING.

Legislative districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor
or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be
drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to
participate in the political process and elect representatives of
their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required,
districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and
where feasible must make use of existing city, county, and
geographical boundaries.
To read the full text of the proposed amendment, click here.

Sponsor: Fair Districts Florida

Background: Reform of the redistricting process emerged as a major
issue in recent years, after the two major political parties became
competitive in Florida following decades of dominance by one party.
According to Orlando Sentinel writer Aaron Deslatte, the fact that
Republicans “hold 15 of the state’s 25 U.S. House seats and 102 of 160
seats in the Legislature … prompted unions, personal-injury lawyers
and other Democrat-leaning groups to spend more than $4.2 million
during the past three years to place Amendments 5 and 6 before voters
this fall.”

Analysis: Amendment 5 dealing with legislative redistricting – and its
companion, Amendment 6 dealing with congressional redistricting –
might have been workable, though still cumbersome, if the Florida
Supreme Court had not removed Amendment 7 from the ballot. That
amendment, passed by the Legislature, sought to clarify the
application of the standards set forth in Amendments 5 and 6. In a 5-2
ruling, however, the Court held that it was unconstitutional because
the ballot summary did not accurately represent the amendment.

Pro: Supporters of Amendment 5 complain that the legislators choose
their constituents rather than the other way around, intended
primarily to protect incumbents and partisan advantage. They also note
that some legislative and congressional districts are geographically
so misshapen that many voters do not even realize who represents them
in Tallahassee or Washington, D.C.

Con: Opponents of Amendment 5 say compliance with Amendment 5’s
standards would be difficult, if not impossible, because of the nature
of Florida’s diverse demographics. They complain that in practice
these standards are contradictory and confusing – akin to the
practical joke that some old-line college coaches used to play on
their freshmen players by shouting, “All right, you guys! Line up
alphabetically by height.”

Recommendation: Enactment of the confusing and contradictory standards
mandated in Amendment 5 would increase the likelihood that any
redistricting plan devised by the Florida Legislature would be subject
to protracted litigation and would ultimately be replaced by a plan
devised by appointed judges rather than by the people’s elected
representatives. Therefore, we recommend NO on Amendment 5.

AMENDMENT 6
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT,
ARTICLE III, SECTION 20

STANDARDS FOR LEGISLATURE TO FOLLOW IN CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING.

Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor
or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be
drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to
participate in the political process and elect representatives of
their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required,
districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and
where feasible must make use of existing city, county, and
geographical boundaries.
To read the full text of the proposed amendment, click here.

Sponsor: Fair Districts Florida

Background: Amendment 6 is identical to Amendment 5 in its origins and
philosophy. Indeed, they were initially presented as a single
amendment, but the Florida Supreme Court correctly held that the
proposals must be presented as two separate questions in case, for
example, a voter wanted to reform redistricting for the Legislature
but not for Congress – or vice versa. The only substantive difference
between the two ballot measures is that Amendment 6 applies to
congressional redistricting while Amendment 5 applies to legislative
redistricting. There is one procedural difference, however: The
Legislature’s plan redrawing congressional districts is subject to
gubernatorial review and, potentially, to a veto. (The Governor –
under the separation of powers doctrine – has no official role in the
redistricting of the Legislature.)

Analysis: Amendment 6, with its confusing and contradictory standards
for congressional redistricting, suffers from the same flaws as
Amendment 5.

Pro and Con: See Amendment 5.

Recommendation: As with Amendment 5, enactment of the confusing and
contradictory standards mandated in Amendment 6 would increase the
likelihood that any redistricting plan devised by the Florida
Legislature would be subject to protracted litigation and would
ultimately be replaced by a plan devised by appointed judges rather
than by elected representatives. Therefore, we recommend NO on
Amendment 6.

AMENDMENT 8
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT,
ARTICLE IX, SECTION 1 and ARTICLE XII, SECTION 31

REVISION OF THE CLASS SIZE REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

The Florida Constitution currently limits the maximum number of students
assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms in the following
grade groupings: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 18 students; for
grades 4 through 8, 22 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 25
students. Under this amendment, the current limits on the maximum
number of students assigned to each teacher in public school
classrooms would become limits on the average number of students
assigned per class to each teacher, by specified grade grouping, in
each public school. This amendment also adopts new limits on the
maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in an individual
classroom as follows: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 21
students; for grades 4 through 8, 27 students; and for grades 9
through 12, 30 students. This amendment specifies that class size
limits do not apply to virtual classes, requires the Legislature to
provide sufficient funds to maintain the average number of students
required by this amendment, and schedules these revisions to take
effect upon approval by the electors of this state and to operate
retroactively to the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.
To read the full text of the proposed amendment, click here.

Sponsor: The Florida Legislature

Background: Florida voters approved the so-called “class size
amendment” in 2002 by a relatively narrow margin that would be
insufficient to meet the current requirement of 60 percent of the
vote. The margin of victory came mainly from two Southeast Florida
counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, where unions affiliated with the
American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO) and compliant school boards
had repeatedly negotiated contracts increasing class sizes in order to
provide salary increases at percentages higher than the percentage
increases in state and local funding per pupil. The boards achieved
this by crowding more students into each classroom, triggering an
outcry from parents. Then, having largely contributed to the problem,
the unions pushed the class-size amendment as a solution. The smaller
classes also meant the hiring of more teachers, meaning more dues
revenue for the union coffers. Meanwhile, there is no conclusive
evidence suggesting that class size alone is directly correlated with
student achievement. On the other hand, there is conclusive evidence
to suggest that teacher competence has a direct bearing on student
achievement. However, the same teachers unions that pushed for passage
of the class size amendment in 2002 – and have gone to court this year
in an effort to deny voters a chance to vote on Amendment 8 – have
repeatedly resisted credible efforts to measure and reward teacher
competence.

Analysis: Florida has spent an estimated $16 billion to comply with
the 2002 class size amendment, despite evidence suggesting that merely
limiting class size does not have a significant impact on students’
achievement. Now the state is facing many budget challenges.
Therefore, the money still flowing into school construction and other
measures necessary to comply with the rigid 2002 class size limits,
which are finally taking full effect this fall, could be better spent
on other approaches to improving student achievement – including
rewards for the most effective teachers

To ask a follow on question or to send Senator Don Gaetz or
Representative Marti Coley an Email:
http://www.gulf1.com/Elected/gaetz/Gaetzmail.htm

If you do not wish to receive future legislative updates from Senator
Gaetz click here: http://www.gulf1.com/mail/elected/Remove_gaetz.asp
 
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