Monday, October 25, 2010

Election Day Picks Part B

This is where I lay out my November 2nd voting picks for Florida District 24 Titusville and why I will vote they way I am. Bold will indicate the ballot item and italics will be used for how I am voting. For electable positions I will only write the position and the candidate I support, and not necessarily every candidate listed on the ballot. For ballot initiatives I will write the text that appears on the ballot.

This post will deal strictly with the ballot initiatives, and mostly the state-wide amendments. A good non-partisan website to look at for the amendments is Collins Center. I am referencing all of my write-ups to this website. I encourage you to watch the 1-2 minute videos that summarize each of the amendments.

If you have a question on how I would vote concerning something else on the ballot, feel free to ask.

No.1 Constitutional Amendment
Repeal of Campain [sic] Financing Reform

Proposing the repeal of the provision in the State Constitution that requires public financing of campaigns of candidates for elective statewide office who agree to campaign spending limits.

YES

Aside from the misspelled word, which hopefully is fixed on the official ballot--otherwise that could mean the REAL Campaign Finance Law won't be repealed--this is an easy pick for me. Campaign financing is a "noble" fix to what is really a non-problem. You see, for every big spending political juggernaut in Florida, there are plenty more little upstarts who just can't get their message out due to a lack of funds. The state of Florida will give these (typically third-party) politicians money to run their campaign. But of course there's a catch: you have to agree to certain spending limits on your campaign.

So if someone uses the public funds to generate some grass-roots momentum, and then in turn begins to raise their own money, they are locked into certain spending limits because they took the public money. Campaign finance laws essentially come down to an infringement on freedom of speech, as odd as that may sound. Because you are given public funds, the government then tries to tell you how much money you can spend on what is essentially getting your message out (your speech).

Repealing this law is a double whammy. It reduces government spending which would in turn eliminate the restrictions on campaign spending.

No. 2 Constitutional Amendment
Homestead Ad Valorem Tax Credit for Deployed Military Personnel

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require the Legislature to provide an additional homestead property tax exemption by law for members of the United States military or military reserves, the United States Coast Guard or its reserves, or the Florida National Guard who receive a homestead exemption and were deployed in the previous year on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The exempt amount will be based upon the number of days in the previous calendar year that the person was deployed on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature. The amendment is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011.

NO

Don't think that a NO vote here hurts the servicemen. They already receive at least one homestead property tax. This would just be an additional benefit to them. It can be hard to vote against something that seems to benefit our troops, who do so much for our country. But servicemen aren't the only ones working in this terrible economy, and they're also not the only ones who could use a tax break.

I am very much against favoritism in legislation, and this amendment screams favoritism. If we make exceptions here, then it just opens the door for more exceptions down the road. Voting no won't take away anything from the people who have been stationed outside the U.S. It will just keep them from getting ANOTHER tax break.

No. 4 Constitutional Amendment
Referenda Required for Adoption and Amendment of Local Government Comprehensive Land Use Plans

Establishes that before a local government may adopt a new comprehensive land use plan, or amend a comprehensive land use plan, the proposed plan or amendment shall be subject to vote of the electors of the local government by referendum, following preparation by the local planning agency, consideration by the governing body and notice.

NO

This amendment is the brainchild of a group that wants to give power back to the people. They are tired of elected officials getting cozy with developers and abusing the system, resulting in increased cost, unmet time tables, and in severe cases seizure of private property. However, it is also an example of treating the symptoms instead of the cause.

If the problem is crony capitalism (government in bed with businesses) then the solution should be a form of pushing competition. This can be done by creating a comprehensive bidding system, and if the winning bid goes over the budget they proposed then they are liable for all additional costs; the tax-payer should not be footing the bill.

Government officials, love 'em or hate 'em, are elected to do these things so that we don't have to. Despite the noble intentions of the amendment's backers, a group called "Hometown Democracy," we put these people in positions of authority so that we don't have to go to the polls every time a change is made in a development plan. There's no definitive evidence on how much this amendment would cost/save taxpayers, but the way I see it is that additional ballot measures every voting cycle would inevitably result in the "need" to create a new bureaucratic office to handle these special elections.

Proponents are for Amendment 4 because they claim it puts power back into the hands of the people. But in reality it substitutes one sort of cronyism for another: the developers are now unseated by the voter who may not like a tree in the park across the street being taken out to build a new public bathroom. Like I said before, the best way to protect against these abuses are to create a competitive market for developers and not lock a city into long contracts with a particular company.

Nos. 5 and 6 Constitutional Amendments
Standards for Legislature to Follow in Legislative (5)/Congressional (6) Redistricting

Legislative/Congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party. Districts shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. Districts must be contiguous. Unless otherwise required, districts must be compact, as equal in population as feasible, and where feasible must make use of existing city, county and geographical boundaries.

YES

Both of these are the saying the same thing, but one applies to redistricting for U.S. Congressional districts and the other to the Florida state legislature. Part of my confusion concerning Amendments 5 and 6 was that I already thought there was something that prevented gerrymandering, or the act of drawing district lines in odd shapes (like a salamander) to favor a certain political party.

I have some misgivings about these amendments because of the emphasis that districts "shall not be drawn to deny racial or language minorities the equal opportunity to participate in the political process..." I didn't realize anyone was denying them the vote; as though we were living before the 1960s again. I think the concern is that in some districts with large minority populations, minority candidates or candidates favoring minority positions rarely run or are elected. There's no telling that with these amendments anything different will occur, though.

The opponent's position, however, is even weaker. Despite Florida having more registered Democrats than Republicans, the state typically votes Republicans into office. Therefore, the Republicans usually get to redraw the district lines. Essentially the opposition point-of-view is "vote NO on 5 and 6 so we can keep favoring Republicans." If that's how you think, then by all means vote that way. But I think you should look at some of the current districts we have and see the ridiculous shapes that they claim are fairly distributed: District 27 stretches across the entire state, District 11 includes only a tiny portion of south St. Petersburg, and District 3 starts in Pine Hills, Orlando and goes north all the way to Jacksonville, taking a huge portion of central Florida with it.

No. 8 Constitutional Amendment
Revision of the Class Size Requirement for Public Schools

The Florida Constitution currently limits the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms in the following grade groupings: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 18 students; for grades 4 through 8, 22 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 25 students. Under this amendment, the current limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms would become limits on the average number of students assigned per class to each teacher, by specified grade grouping, in each public school. This amendment also adopts new limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in an individual classroom as follows: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 21 students; for grades 4 through 8, 27 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 30 students. This amendment specifies that class size limits do not apply to virtual classes, requires the Legislature to provide sufficient funds to maintain the average number of students required by this amendment, and schedules these revisions to take effect upon approval by the electors of this state and to operate retroactively to the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

YES

I had to do a double-take on this one. My first instinct was "NO," because I thought smaller classes were more conducive to learning and I thought that if the school budget was having trouble meeting needs, cuts could be made in other areas. But it turns out that a Harvard study was done on Florida based on the 2002 law that mandated the smaller class sizes, and they found no discernible differences between scores prior to and scores after. Another thing is that the new amendment would change the class size maximum to the class size average in a school.

So three classes at an elementary school, A, B, and C, under the current law have 17, 18, and 18 students respectively. Two new students transfer into the school and are put in class A, and one student transfers out of the school and class B. The current law would require a student to be moved from class A to class B to keep the maximum at 18 each. But the new amendment would allow things to remain as is because the overall average in the school is still 18 students in each class. The only problem that would arise is if the new maximum of 21 is breached, but then things are treated the same as before and a new teacher is hired and class is created.

The other thing is that an estimated $18.7 billion have been spent trying to meet the class size requirements from the 2002 law. And schools are still not close to meeting the standards by the 2011 deadline. In addition, money is saved overall by not needing to build as many additional schools.

The bottom line is the kids shouldn't suffer but neither should the taxpayer, which is exactly what's happening in this instance. Don't let teachers try to persuade you that it's "FOR TEH CHILDRENZ" and a vote for 8 is a vote against kids (although you're welcome to think that if you don't like kids). It's simply about trying to control government spending so that these kids will have a state to live in when they graduate.

Nonbinding Statewide Advisory Referendum

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?

YES

If a family has to live under a budget, why shouldn't the government? The thing about this ballot item is that it is only asking if there should be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So in other words a YES vote will only get the ball rolling. But I still think it's a push in the right direction. For the same reason's Proposition 19 in California is getting the discussion going on decriminalizing marijuana, this kind of vote will make people consider the unrestrained spending that Congress has been forcing on us for decades.


I hope my synopses help you decide one way or the other on how to vote on November 2nd. The most important part is that you take an interest in your community, your state, and your country and vote on what you think best benefits that which you hold dear. Let's hit the polls hard, people, and let the government know what is important to us.

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