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SPC Forum Will Focus on Amendments to Constitution

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SPC FORUM WILL FOCUS ON AMENDMENTS TO CONSTITUTION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                          AUGUST 24, 2018

Florida voters may find more confusion than usual when they get to the bottom of the ballot on Nov. 6. That’s because they’ll find 27 proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution down there. But they can’t vote on each issue separately. Six of the 13 amendment titles are “bundles” of multiple issues, but voters can only vote for or against the entire bundle.

Confused yet? Don’t worry. It will all be made clear at a forum on the amendments sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College titled “Constitutional Amendments: Understanding the Bottom of the Ballot.” It will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at SPC’s Seminole campus, 9200 113th St. N.

The multiple-issue proposals were put on the ballot by the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC), a citizen review board that meets every 20 years to consider issues that are identified as vital to the state Constitution. While amendments initiated by citizen petition are limited to one subject, the CRC has no such restriction and decided to “bundle” related issues under one amendment heading. That relationship may appear murky in some cases, but voters will not be able to separate issues within each bundle if they like one but dislike the other two or three – or vice versa.

Leading the discussion will be Dr. Frank Alcock, Associate Professor of Political Science at New College of Florida, Sarasota. As a senior fellow at the former Collins Center for Public Policy, Dr. Alcock is a veteran analyst of constitutional amendment proposals for the past two decades.

In the opening segment, he will explain the pros and cons of all of the amendments. Then, he will moderate as teams of experts advocate for and against passage of four of the most far-reaching amendments. These are Amendments 3, 4, 8 and 9.

Amendment 3, titled “Voter Approval of Casino Gambling,” would effectively prevent the Legislature from ever approving casino gambling in Florida. If the amendment passes, that could only be done by the citizen initiative process, which would require petitions signed by 8 percent of the votes cast in the last presidential election to get a casino gambling proposal on the ballot. Then that proposal would have to be approved by a majority of voters in a general election.

Amendment 4, known as the “Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative,” would restore voting rights for felons who have completed all terms of their sentences. It represents a classic clash between liberal and conservative perspectives on criminal justice standards.   

Amendment 8 is one of the “bundled” proposals of the CRC, with three separate issues. The most controversial of these would remove oversight of charter schools from local school boards and transfer it to state control. The amendment is still being litigated, however, as the state is appealing a Leon County Circuit Judge’s ruling that the wording of the amendment is misleading and that it must be stricken from the ballot. Two less-controversial parts of this amendment would establish eight-year term limits for school board members and mandate that civics be taught in the K-12 school system.

Amendment 9 is a two-issue proposal. Setting it up as another liberal-conservative clash is the proposal to ban offshore drilling for oil and gas on lands beneath state waters. Voters from both perspectives may like the second half of this proposal, which would ban vaping in indoor workplaces.

Other notable proposed amendments include No. 1, which would increase the homestead exemption by $25,000 to $125,000 – a move that would cut homeowner property taxes but that local government officials say would be a significant blow to the local tax base – and their budgets. Also sure to spark debate is Amendment 13, which would ban wagering on dog races. Opponents say this would doom greyhound tracks, although other forms of gambling are allowed at the tracks.

Admission to the forum is free, but advance registration is requested at http://solutions.spcollege.edu.

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