Florida’s 2016 amendments summarized for you

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There are four statewide amendments on the ballot this election cycle (one was passed during the primaries in August). Some of the counties along the central West Coast of Florida also have amendments for your voting pleasure. Below is a summary of the amendments, and the pros and cons of each, taken from the websites and statements of supporters and detractors. WMNF isn’t recommending voting in any particular way, and believes that you are smart enough to figure it out for yourself. Sources for much of the information here are listed at the end of the post. Election day is Tuesday, November 8, but as of 11/5/16 it appears that 5,731,761 people have already cast their votes.

Statewide Amendments that have organized support and opposition

Amendment 1 : Solar Energy :   Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice
Probably the amendment that is getting the most ink right now, this amendment was one of two citizen’s initiative amendments on the ballot, though its detractors might argue with describing it as citizens driven. But utility companies are people too! (according to the Citizens United decision)

Supporters (its sponsor is the political committee Consumers for Smart Solar) say that the amendment  “promotes solar in the Sunshine State, protects Florida consumers from scams, rip-offs and unfair subsidies, and guarantees your constitutional right to place solar panels on your home.” They also posit that solar energy users are being unfairly subsidized by non-users. (The Florida Solar Energy Industries Association and Floridians for Solar Choice filed a lawsuit on 11/2/16 asking the Florida Supreme Court to strike the amendment from the ballot, and with that court against Florida’s Secretary of State, asking him to “not canvass the election results” for that amendment. The court turned the petition down Friday afternoon.)

The Sierra Club disagrees, writing, ‘Polluter-backed utility giants are trying to trick Floridians into backing Amendment 1 — their plan to choke off residential solar power under the guise of ‘helping” solar’ and labeling it a scam. The amendment could block consumers with solar panels from selling excess power to others, and put roadblocks up for solar energy in Florida.”

There was a related minor scandal in October when the policy director of the James Madison Institute praised the amendment and it’s wording, calling it “an incredibly savvy maneuver” and saying it “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar interests) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road,” according to the Miami Herald.

You can read more at the League of Women Voters of Florida’s voter guide (non-partisan organization) about this amendment and all of the other statewide ones here.

Amendment 2: Medical Marijuana: Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions 
This amendment is the other initiated amendment on the November ballot (the other two are sponsored by the Florida Legislature), and grew out of the Medical Marijuana amendment that failed to hit the required 60% threshold in 2014. Proponents crafted a more specific list of medical conditions that would allow medical marijuana to be prescribed.

Supporters state that this is a humane way to help Floridians deal with debilitating pain in a system that disallows recreational use of marijuana. The state legislature has already approved two laws that allow sufferers to use medical marijuana or derivatives (non-euphoric marijuana for relief for people who suffer seizures, and full strength medical marijuana for terminally ill people).  This amendment would allow doctors to also prescribe medical marijuana to those suffering from one of the following illnesses as stated in the amendment:

…cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency
syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease,
Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable
to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the
potential health risks for a patient.

Opponents state they fear this is a scam to legalize marijuana; that many of the forms that marijuana will be sold would appeal to children and non-patients (lollipops, gummy bears); that the number of marijuana shops will outnumber current chain pharmacies; and that similar laws in other states have failed miserably.

Statewide Amendments that don’t have organized opposition

Amendment 3: Tax Exemptions for Disabled First Responders
This amendment, and amendment 5, were both put on the ballot by the Florida Legislature, which is called a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. Current laws allow the spouses of deceased first responders, who died in the line of duty, relief from property taxes on homesteaded property. This amendment would grant that relief to the first responders while still alive, as long as their disability occurred in the line of duty. It seems that the amendment is also clarifying that the exemption is for certain military veterans as well. You can read it here.

Amendment 5: Homestead Exemption for Low-income Seniors
This amendment is targeted at senior citizens in Florida who have an income of $29K (ish) or less, and have qualified for the exemption, but because of the real estate market their house might have a market value of more than $250,000 (the current cut off). If they have been living in the home more than 25 years, this protects those citizens from losing their exemption. It may be retroactive for many to 2013. You can read this one here.

Sources (besides listening to the great discussions on WMNF’s Radioactivity and Midpoint shows)