SEMINOLE – Deciding which boxes to check for President, U.S. Senator and state and local officials may be the easy part for Florida voters on Nov. 6. Also on the ballot are 11 proposed constitutional amendments that could have far-reaching impact on Florida and Floridians.
Yet the amendments are often the least-understood elements of the biannual exercise in representative democracy called elections. Limited in wording and often the pet project of special interests, the amendments represent a series of often-baffling choices for voters.
A special pre-election forum at St. Petersburg College on Thursday, Oct. 4 will take the mystery out of the amendments. The forum, free and open to the public, is co-presented by SPC’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and the Collins Center for Public Policy, and is co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, WUSF Public Media, and WEDU television. It will be from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Digitorium of the Seminole campus, 9200 113th St. N.
Debating the pros and cons of the amendments will be a distinguished panel:
• Tara Newsom, associate professor of social and behavioral science, St. Petersburg College.
• Aaron Sharockman, deputy editor for government and politics, Tampa Bay Times.
• Tony Carvajal, chief operations officer, the Collins Center for Public Policy.
• Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan, associate professor of political science and associate director of the Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership and Civic Engagement, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.
Frank Alcock, associate professor of political science, New College of Florida, will moderate.
Not all of the amendments are difficult to understand. Nos. 2, 9 and 11, for example, would expand tax exemptions for military veterans and/or their widowed spouses, widowers of first responders killed in the line of duty, and low-income senior citizens.
But others are more complex, and laced with controversy. Amendment 1 seeks to exempt Florida from the national health care law, also known as Obamacare.
Amendment 3 would impose limits on the amount of revenue the state could raise in any given year.
Amendment 4 would provide more tax relief for non-homesteaded property, which local governments say would cost them $700 million a year in property tax revenue statewide.
Amendment 5 would alter the balance of power between the legislative and judicial branches of state government.
Perhaps most thorny of all are amendments 6 and 8. Amendment 6 would limit a woman’s constitutional right to privacy where abortion is concerned. Amendment 8 would repeal an existing clause in the state Constitution that provides for a separation of church and state in spending of state tax dollars.
The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College serves as a resource for academic enrichment, a nonpartisan venue for civil, objective debate of topical public issues, a center to promote better government, and a resource for sustainable economic development. Its mission is to support a broad array of research, training, educational and policy analysis and support activities at the local, state, regional and national levels.
The Collins Center, named after Gov. LeRoy Collins, who served from 1955 to 1961, was established in 1988 to seek out creative, nonpartisan solutions to Florida’s toughest issues. Its work exemplifies Collins’ desire for objective analysis and his vision for a better Florida.
The forum is free, but advance registration is requested. Register at spcollege.edu/solutions, or call 394-6251 for more information.