2014 November Voting Guide (Part Two: Constitutional Amendments, Charter Amendments, and a Bond Issue)

This is part two of a two-part guide to the ballot in South Florida. Part One covered candidates on the 2014 ballot in Miami-Dade; this part looks at the three state-wide proposals to amend the Florida Constitution, at four proposals to amend the Miami-Dade County Charter, and a proposal for a bond issue.

Florida Constitutional Amendments

1- YES, 2-YES & 3-NO

No 1: Water and Land Conservation. (Full text.) Earmarking certain existing tax revenues for the environment. Vote for water conservation. We need it badly. This won’t directly raise taxes in that it just earmarks existing revenues. Money being fungible, it is of course possible that taxes might be raised to pay for something that these existing revenues might otherwise have been used for. Vote YES.

No. 2: Medical Marijuana. (Full text.) Very limited – too limited. Vote YES anyway.

No. 3: “Prospective Appointment of Certain judicial Vacancies,” AKA court-packing in some scenarios. (Full text.) The court appointment process ain’t broke: Vote NO

Seriously, why would we want a lame-duck governor doing the Florida Supreme Court appointments … here’s why and it isn’t pretty. As former Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead explained, it’s a “partisan political power grab”:

In the past, Florida was hailed nationally as a model system for appointment of fair and impartial judges based solely on merit. It was perhaps the greatest legacy of the late Gov. Reubin Askew, who voluntarily gave up his sole authority to appoint judges in favor of a nonpartisan merit selection system based on his belief that “the judiciary is too important to be left to partisan patronage.”…

Now, instead of working to restore Askew’s nonpartisan merit system, the current legislative majority is seeking to accelerate a partisan political power grab of Florida’s judiciary at the highest level. They want to vest a lame-duck outgoing governor with the authority to fill three seats on the Supreme Court that become vacant after the governor’s term expires.

The sponsors of Amendment 3 say they are trying to eliminate confusion and an imaginary future constitutional crisis in the delay of a new governor making the appointments. Those claims are thin cover for continued improper political interference in our courts…

What Floridians are really being asked to eliminate is a critical protection Askew built into the system of merit selection and retention. When the system was adopted, it was built on two pillars of public input and accountability. In addition to requiring appointed judges to go before the public for merit retention at regular intervals, a governor seeking re-election could be held accountable at the ballot box for his appointments. That accountability vanishes if an outgoing governor makes the appointments.

The scheme proposed in Amendment 3 gives a departing governor the power to tip the scales of justice for partisan reasons on the way out the door — with impunity. And, therein lies the easily identified real intent of this amendment. Partisan advocates, frustrated by the public’s rejection of their attempt to remove these same three Florida justices in their retention elections in 2012, have audaciously found another scheme to achieve their goals of stacking the court politically.

It is a one-time gamble and a shortsighted strategy on multiple levels. First, it presumes Gov. Rick Scott is re-elected so that he can make the appointments at the end of his second term. More importantly, it cynically ignores the possibility that an informed Florida public will reject this blatant attempt to politicize the judiciary.

Of course if Crist wins in November and this passes, it will kind of blow up in their faces. I’d still be against it though, even if I knew that was going to happen.

County Questions

Vote NO on all four attempts to undermine Art. 7.

Amend Article 7 to allow Libraries in Parks? Sounds innocuous. But it could be the thin edge of the wedge on undermining green spaces in a town where every proposal is about less green space, or ignoring promises about old green spaces. Let’s fund the libraries we’ve got first. NO. Note also that Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo proposed this – that can’t be good. And indeed it isn’t. No, indeed.

Exempt Miami Dade Regional Soccer Park from Article 7? Another attack on greenery. Well, actually this is about a former landfill that they want to open to a privately run soccer camp. So there’s less at stake here environmentally, but it seems a bit special-interest to me. NO, weakly.

Allow Campgrounds and Lodgers/Cabins in Camp Matecumbe? I couldn’t find much information on this other than this article which makes the development proposed in this County Question sound unattractive compared to the plan the locals want. Leaning NO, but I’m open to hearing the other side.

Exempt FIU from Art 7 to encourage their takeover of the Miami-Dade Youth Fair site? NO. Really, NO.

The whole local establishment is for this which tells you something not so wonderful about the establishment here. I’ve gotten robocalls and live calls too. But it’s a pig in a poke. To make this plan work work FIU would have to comply with a contractual requirement to find a new site for the Youth Fair – and there’s no obvious place for it. It would be folly to approve a project like this until we know where they are planing to send it And if anyone knows, they are not talking. Don’t encourage this sort of back-door governance. We have a right to know at least the basic facts about a deal before we are asked to OK it.

Funding new courthouse. This would authorize a $393 million bond issue, most of it for a new downtown courthouse. The old one is in terrible repair; it has leaks and mold. We need a new one. The price seems somewhat high; one could quibble as to how unrepairable the old building really is. But something needs doing, and this is something. I’m voting YES.

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14 Responses to 2014 November Voting Guide (Part Two: Constitutional Amendments, Charter Amendments, and a Bond Issue)

  1. Jose Musa says:

    Thank you very good guide! Please notify me of next voting guide for my area, Miami Dade county.

  2. The O says:

    “Vote Yes anyways”?? What kind of fucking explanation is that?

    • One that assumes you agree with me that, given the social side-effects of the ban, Prohibition on marijuana makes approximately equal sense to Prohibition on alcohol. One that assumes you agree with me that there should, at the very least, be no restrictions at all on medical marijuana.

      This proposal limits medical marijuana to only certain uses. So, while better than nothing at all, it’s not anywhere close to what I would favor. But it’s worth voting for as a first baby step.

  3. Trajk Logik says:

    Amendment 1:
    It is clear that the amendment would decrease legislative flexibility in budgeting, which Florida TaxWatch has consistently held to be a vital tool for responsible budget decisions. Regardless of the merits of either argument on the issue, this is a policy decision that does not belong embedded in “constitutional concrete” in the Florida Constitution.

    • In the abstract, this seems sensible. But we don’t live in the abstract. The fact is that although Florida is a 50/50 state politically, it is gerrymandered to give Republicans a huge majority in the legislature. As a result, the only way to get certain kinds of policies, notably spending on schools and the environment, is by popular referendum. When the legislature stops being unrepresentative, we can worry about niceties like giving it flexibility. At present, the *problem* we have to solve is the abuse of that flexibility, owing to an abuse of the redistricting process.

      • Trajk Logik says:

        If your argument is to take back control of the purse-strings of the Florida treasury from the greedy, gerrymandering Republicans, then were you aware Jeb Bush, a Republican, is promoting Amendment 1? Your voting with the Republicans, or at least a prominent figurehead of the Republican party, so your argument doesn’t hold any water because you’re voting with them.

        • I could snark that ‘even a blind pig finds truffles sometimes’ but in fact I think pigs find truffles by smell.

          More seriously, environmental protection should be a conservative issue: it’s about protecting the status quo. It’s unfortunate that environmental rules have become a casualty of scorched-earth anti-government tactics.

          If Jeb Bush, for whatever reason, supports this, I’ll worry a bit that its passage will take pressure off republicans in elections to the extent that it takes some environmental issues off the table, but I’ll take it anyway.

          • Trajk Logik says:

            It’s about recognizing that there are already numerous provisions, sections, revisions, and statutes on the books to protect and conserve Florida’s precious natural resources. Why do we need more?

            First, there are numerous sections in Florida law, Chapter 259 of the Florida Statutes in particular, that already deal with the acquisition and conservation of land and natural resources. In addition, there is the Florida Forever program, passed by the Florida Legislature and implemented by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which has spent nearly $3 billion since 2001 to acquire 707,740 acres of conservation land and 686,370 of acres groundwater recharge areas.

            The Department of Agriculture also has broad jurisdiction to regulate in areas of environmental conservation. Within the Department there is the Office of Agricultural Water Policy, as well as a Botany and Forest Protection Bureau. These agencies have an aggregate yearly budget of $1.5 billion.

            As if that weren’t enough, Florida voters approved an amendment in 1998 that created a constitutional bureaucracy called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission which also has broad authority to enforce protections concerning water and land preservation with a yearly budget of more than $300 million. But wait, there is more. In 1996, voters approved Section 17 to Article X of the Florida Constitution establishing the Everglades Trust Fund whereby monies “shall be expended for purposes of conservation and protection of natural resources and abatement of water pollution in the Everglades Protection Area and Everglades Agricultural Area.

            What we should be concerned about is that we don’t follow the path of California, where so many mandates have been put in their constitution that their legislature is incapable of balancing the budget anymore.

            The documentary tax, which would fund the conservation fund, is currently utilized for transportation and housing trust funds — funds that have proven to consistently stimulate Florida’s economy and create jobs. Therefore, the conservation fund would hurt other programs that currently utilize revenue from the documentary tax. So voting for the conservation fund would mean that you are voting against stimulating Florida jobs and the economy.

            • Fact is, we’re in trouble, especially on the water quantity and quality fronts.

              The idea that spending on the environment is bad for jobs or doesn’t create jobs is not supported by evidence. Plus, try having jobs without water.

              And in any case this is Florida, which depends heavily on tourism, and thus on preservation of natural resources.

              I’m confident that spending on the environment is better for jobs than spending on roads (would that we spent more transport money on mass transit). I don’t have data on how spending on the environment compares to spending on housing, but I think clear air and clean water are higher priorities than more development at or near sea level.

              Have a look at the FAQ on Amendment 1, which includes this:

              If this funding goes to conservation, will that mean cuts to other vital services?
              No. If all of the water and land conservation programs eligible for “doc stamp” funding today were funded at current or historic levels, that amount would be much more than the 33 percent Amendment 1 would dedicate to water and land conservation. In fact, in some years, nearly 50 percent of the “doc stamp” was allocated to Amendment 1-eligible purposes. Amendment 1 would take an amount similar to what historically has been used for water and land conservation and dedicate it for that same purpose, but with constitutional protections. The impartial analysis of Amendment 1 by the state’s Fiscal Impact Estimating Conference shows that, absent changes by the Legislature, the level of funding distributed to non-conservation purposes will still grow after approval of Amendment 1.

              • Trajk Logik says:

                Your reply ignores a key fact: That we already have numerous provisions, sections, revisions, and statutes on the books to protect and conserve Florida’s precious natural resources. If all these weren’t enough, then what makes you think this Amendment will be?

              • I don’t think it will be enough. I think it will be less inadequate than what we have now.

  4. Heather says:

    Thank you for this helpful resource!

  5. Barbara M says:

    Confused about City Chater Section 1.03
    Cannot find much information on this Management and Concession Agreements as far as benefits of voting yes or no on it.
    The require approval amendment by 4/7 and 6/7… how does it compare to current approval ratings? Is it more or less lenient?
    Ultimately I believe the concessions on the beach for instance are monopolistic, therefore unfair and quite likely political.

  6. Pingback: Links to My Miami-Dade Voter’s Guide | Discourse.net

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