There are so many bad Constitutional amendments on Florida’s ballot that it’s hard to know where to start.
The most deceptive is Amendment 8, which is fraudulently captioned “Religious Freedom.” If passed, it would open the door to taxpayer funding of private religious schools and institutions, a dangerous mixing of church and state that has been prohibited here for 126 years.
Amendment 8 used to be Amendment 7, which was derailed by a court challenge and then hastily rewritten. It would bar government from denying public funds to organizations or institutions based on “religious identity or belief.”
Specifically, it would eliminate the long-standing Constitutional ban on using state money “directly or indirectly” to aid any “church, sect or religious domination.”
Amendment 8 was concocted by Republican lawmakers who support a student voucher system that would benefit private schools and church schools while bleeding critical funds from state education revenues.
This should anger you only if you’ve got children or grandchildren in public school.
Another terrible ballot measure is Amendment 6, an anti-abortion manifesto that would punch holes in the privacy clause in Florida’s Constitution. If anything deserves a legal shield of privacy, it’s a woman’s personal and often difficult choices about birth planning.
Christian conservatives in the Legislature are exasperated because their attempts to restrict abortions have stalled in the courts due to of the privacy issue. Their solution is to rewrite the Constitution to exclude abortion-related matters from that protection.
By weakening privacy rights, Amendment 6 would set the stage for politicians to interfere in a broad range of medical and family decisions in which they should have no say, no influence, no presence whatsoever.
Who can forget their disgraceful theatrics during the Terri Schiavo case?
Partisan spittle is likewise all over Amendment 1, which is basically just a ham-handed attack on the federal health care law. It declares that government can’t make employers provide health insurance for their workers, and that it can’t force uninsured people to purchase insurance.
Where were these bold libertarian voices when mandatory auto liability insurance got passed in Florida? You can be sure they carry their little State Farm cards tucked safely in their wallets.
The good thing about Amendment 1 is that it’s all hot air, and it won’t have any effect on health care reform. That’s because federal law supersedes state law, a somewhat substantial technicality that failed to deter the grandstanding boneheads in Tallahassee.
To demonstrate their contempt for taxes, lawmakers have also larded the ballot with several amendments that would amount to a mugging of city and county governments.
Among them is Amendment 3, so dense and confusing that it might as well have been transcribed in Slovenian. It would change the equation for setting the state’s revenue cap, potentially restricting the amount of funds available for some rather basic municipal needs.
Around the country, 20 other legislatures have rejected versions of Amendment 3. Colorado voters passed one, and it proved to be such a mess that they hurried back to the polls and killed it.
None of this served to discourage the GOP leadership in the Florida Legislature, whose appetite for doomed schemes seems boundless.
Amendment 4 is even worse than Amendment 3, a gift to wealthy owners of second homes in Florida. It would cut by half the cap on property tax assessments for non-homesteaded properties, at a projected cost to city and county governments of between $600 million and $1 billion over the first three years.
This should bother you only if you care about your local police and fire protection, ambulance service, city parks… you know, the little stuff.
Another amendment for which there’s absolutely no public clamor is Amendment 5, which would give legislators unprecedented sway over Florida’s judiciary.
It’s the pet project of House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican who holds an actual law degree from the University of Florida. Presiding over a legislative body that cranks out one deficient statute after another, Cannon is miffed that the courts keep stomping on them.
His retort is Amendment 5, which would have the state Senate confirm all Supreme Court appointments. Stop laughing — the guy is serious. He thinks state senators should pick our Supreme Court justices.
In addition, Cannon wants the entire Legislature to be able to change, by simple majority votes, procedural rules that govern the courts. Finally, his Amendment 5 allows the House Speaker (currently him) to see the confidential files of any Judicial Nominating Commission.
He calls this “checks and balances,” but it’s really a flagrant dismantling of the Constitutional boundaries between the Legislature and the justice system.
The result would be the total political pollution of our courts.
Cannon’s law professors at UF must be aghast. Lots of other Republicans are.
All these rotten amendments were written and captioned for the ballot in ways to appear harmless and even reformist, but they aren’t.
And they won’t pass unless 60 percent of Florida’s voters are fooled.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.
(c) 2012, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.
Photo by “orangejack” via Flickr.com