Six changes to the Florida Constitution and one non-binding resolution are on the ballot for voters on Nov. 2, and four of them have hit hot buttons: Amendments 5 and 6, which would require the Legislature to draw state and congressional district boundaries along logical boundaries; Amendment 4, which would force governments to place zoning plans or changes before voters; and Amendment 8, which would loosen the state’s class-size amendment that voters approved in 2002.
Proposed amendments on health care reform and redistricting were removed from the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 1
REPEAL OF PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING REQUIREMENT
What it would do: Would get rid of Section 7 of Article VI of the State Constitution, which requires public financing of campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office (governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, agriculture secretary) who agree to campaign spending limits.
Who supports it: Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, introduced the bill in the Legislature. His supporters, mainly House and Senate Republicans, argue public campaign funding is a welfare system for candidates and the money would be better spent on the state’s needs.
Who opposes it: Opponents, mostly Democrats in the Legislature, say getting rid of the system would give wealthier candidates an unfair advantage.
Savings: In 2006, the public finances for the statewide offices cost $11 million.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2
HOMESTEAD AD VALOREM TAX CREDIT FOR DEPLOYED MILITARY PERSONNEL
What it would do: Require the Legislature to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption by law for members of the military or reserves, the Coast Guard or its reserves, or the
Florida National Guard who were deployed in the previous year on active duty overseas. The exempt amount will be based upon the number of days of active-duty deployment in the previous calendar year.
Who supports it: Every member of the Legislature. The bill passed unanimously.
Who opposes it: No apparent organized opposition.
Cost: The state estimates it to be $13 million a year.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 4
REFERENDA REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION AND AMENDMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMPREHENSIVE LAND USE PLANS
What it would do: Before local governments could adopt or amend their comprehensive land-use plans, they would need approval of voters.
Who supports it: Florida Hometown Democracy Inc., a political action committee led by South Florida lawyer Lesley Blackner. The measure gained more than 700,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot and also has the backing of the state and local chapters of the Sierra Club and various anti-growth groups. Proponents say the people, not appointed boards or elected representatives, should have a say in controlling growth.
Who opposes it: Builders, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, local chambers, realtors and others who say requiring elections on zoning proposals would paralyze growth and kill jobs.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 5
STANDARDS FOR LEGISLATURE TO FOLLOW IN LEGISLATIVE REDISTRICTING
What it would do: State legislative districts or districting plans could not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party and could not deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous and compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries. That would mean an end to gerrymandered districts created by the Legislature in 1992.
Who supports it: A nonpartisan group, FairDistrictsFlorida.org, which wants to stop politicians from drawing districts to ensure their own elections or re-elections; co-chairs include former Sen.
Bob Graham and former Attorney General Janet Reno; the NAACP.
Who opposes it: Republicans in the Florida Legislature; U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 6
STANDARDS FOR LEGISLATURE TO FOLLOW IN CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING
What it would do: Language in the measure mirrors Amendment 5 with one change: The first word is “Congressional” and it applies to districts for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Who supports it: The same people who support Amendment 6.
Who opposes it: Ditto.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 8
REVISION OF THE CLASS SIZE REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
What it would do: Florida voters passed a class-size amendment to the state constitution in 2002 that set these limits: prekindergarten through third grade, 18 students; grades four-eight, 22 students; grades nine-12, 25 students. This amendment would instead allow schools to increase those numbers to 21, 27 and 30 students, respectively, provided that classes with that many students were offset elsewhere in the schools by classrooms with fewer students, so that the 2002 limits would be averages only.
Who supports it: Gov. Charlie Crist and cash-strapped school districts, who call the 2002 limits too costly to implement.
Who opposes it: The Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union that says students learn better in smaller classroom environments.
Nonbinding Statewide Advisory Referendum
BALANCING THE FEDERAL BUDGET. A NONBINDING REFERENDUM CALLING FOR AN AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
What it would do: It asks of voters the following question: “In order to stop the uncontrolled growth of our national debt and prevent excessive borrowing by the federal government, which threatens our economy and national security, should the United States Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes?” Beyond raising the question, it would do nothing.
Who supports it: Republicans in the Legislature who want to pressure the federal government to stop deficit spending.
Who opposes it: Florida Democrats, but only to stop language in the original bill that talked of robbing children of their ability to earn a living and of threatening national security. The GOP relented, so now no one really cares.