Poll on Florida’s Amendment #2

A poll released Monday shows that 88 percent of Florida voters support allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes, bolstering the arguments of advocates who have placed a constitutional amendment on the November ballot seeking legalization.

The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, indicates widespread support across political and demographic lines — Republicans and Democrats, men and women, young and old — for legal medical marijuana if it is prescribed by physicians. The constitutional amendment needs approval from 60 percent of voters to pass.

The Quinnipiac poll found that legal use of medical marijuana was supported by 93 percent of Democrats, 89 percent of independents and 80 percent of Republicans. It was supported by 92 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 and 84 percent of voters ages 65 and older.

link

For me this comes down to the people’s right to individual freedom. Government shouldn’t have the power to interfere with the decisions people make about how they live their lives, provided your activities don’t negatively affect the people around you.

Florida’s Midterm Elections

– Politicians –

UNITED STATES SENATOR

Katherine Harris REP
Bill Nelson DEM
Floyd Ray Frazier NPA
Belinda Noah NPA
Brian Moore NPA
Roy Tanner NPA

Bill Nelson – If there’s one kind of Democrat I like, it’s a do nothing Democrat.

Katherine HarrisAs I’ve previously mentioned, I think Harris is a complete idiot.

Floyd Ray Frazier – Interesting platform: expanding government funded healthcare for the poor, civil rights – likes to quote Malcolm-X and J.F.K, legalization of Marijuana, promotes a national sales tax over the income tax, Social Security reform, wants to raise teacher’s salaries to 100K per year, slave reperations, Kerry healthcare. I kind of like him, he’s spunky. With Nelson way out ahead it might be fun to throw a vote in his direction.

Belinda Noah – A mix match of ideas: big on the national sales tax (she attended the FairTax rally in Orlando), pro-guns, anti-abortion, Kerry healthcare. I’m confused. A professor with a degree in mass communications, she used a one page blogspot page for her campaign web site. That’s all the effort she’s willing to put into a run for the U.S. Senate? I’m not impressed.

Brian Moore – Likes to visit Cuba, Nader endorsed him, government regulation, protectionism. meh.

Roy Tanner“Reclaim America for God, family, and leadership of the free world.” True religious right candidate. Very George Bush’ish. I think I’ve had enough of these folks.

All in all, no good picks. I’m really surprised Florida doesn’t have a good Libertarian candidate. I’m not a vote along party lines kind of guy. If there’s nobody up for election that’s worthy of my vote, so be it.

No confidence vote, leave it empty.

GOVERNOR

Charlie Crist REP
Jim Davis DEM
Max Linn REF
Richard Paul Dembinsky NPA
John Wayne Smith NPA
Karl C.C. Behm NPA

Long live Jeb Bush’s excellent economic legacy and combine it with a moderate stance on civil liberties. No more Terri Schivos, please! I hope he’s not a big government conservative (or liberal) in disguise.

Charlie Crist

– Constitutional Amendments –

No. 1 – State Planning and Budget Process

Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to limit the amount of nonrecurring general revenue which may be appropriated for recurring purposes in any fiscal year to 3 percent of the total general revenue funds estimated to be available, unless otherwise approved by a three-fifths vote of the Legislature; to establish a Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which shall issue long-range financial outlooks; to provide for limited adjustments in the state budget without the concurrence of the full Legislature, as provided by general law; to reduce the number of times trust funds are automatically terminated; to require the preparation and biennial revision of a long-range state planning document; and to establish a Government Efficiency Task Force and specify its duties.

While adding additional government bureaucracy seems like a bad idea at first, the fact that this new bureaucracy is oriented toward sounder fiscal budget policy and, according to what I’ve read, will have negligible financial impact indicates this is a good measure.

YES

NO. 3 – Requiring Broader Public Support For Constitutional Amendments or Revisions

Proposes an amendment to Section 5 of Article XI of the State Constitution to require that any proposed amendment to or revision of the State Constitution, whether proposed by the Legislature, by initiative, or by any other method, must be approved by at least 60 percent of the voters of the state voting on the measure, rather than by a simple majority. This proposed amendment would not change the current requirement that a proposed constitutional amendment imposing a new state tax or fee be approved by at least 2/3 of the voters of the state voting in the election in which such an amendment is considered.

If the people want an amendment passed, 60% majority seems like a reasonable expectation to accomplish it. We’ve had some real boondoggles pass via a close majority. Special interest groups do not like this amendment. Enough said.

YES

NO. 4 – Protect People, Especially Youth, From Addiction, Disease, and Other Health Hazards of Using Tobacco

To protect people, especially youth, from addiction, disease, and other health hazards of using tobacco, the Legislature shall use some Tobacco Settlement money annually for a comprehensive statewide tobacco education and prevention program using Centers for Disease Control best practices. Specifies some program components, emphasizing youth, requiring one-third of total annual funding for advertising. Annual funding is 15% of 2005 Tobacco Settlement payments to Florida, adjusted annually for inflation. Provides definitions. Effective immediately. This amendment requires state government to appropriate approximately $57 million in 2007 for the Comprehensive Statewide Tobacco Education and Prevention Program. Thereafter, this amount will increase annually with inflation. This spending is expected to reduce tobacco consumption. As a result, some long-term savings to state and local government health and insurance programs are probable, but indeterminate. Also, minor revenue loss to state government is probable, but
indeterminate.

Three issues –

First and foremost, it’s not the government’s responsibility to educate kids on the dangers of smoking, it’s the family.

Second, programs like this tend to be self perpetuating. Once funding from the Tobacco Settlement dries up, proponents will expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab and run with the program. Currently this proposed program will cost Florida $57,000.000.00 annually, and according to the amendment, this value will be increased for inflation.

Third, existing programs which are currently being funded using the Tobacco Settlement will have to have their funding cut. But how likely is that? More likely the existing programs will receive their funding from other areas, doubling the cost to the taxpayer overall. This is a classic “big government” spending initiative.

NO

NO. 6 – Increased Homestead Exemption

Proposing amendment of the State Constitution to increase the maximum additional homestead exemption for low-income seniors from $25,000 to $50,000 and to schedule the amendment to take effect January 1, 2007, if adopted.

Tax cut.

YES

NO. 7 – Permanently Disabled Veterans’ Discount on Homestead Ad Valorem Tax

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to provide a discount from the amount of ad valorem tax on the homestead of a partially or totally permanently disabled veteran who is age 65 or older who was a
Florida resident at the time of entering military service, whose disability was combat-related, and who was honorably discharged; to specify the percentage of the discount as equal to the percentage of the veteran’s permanent service-connected disability; to specify qualification requirements for the discount; to authorize the Legislature to waive the annual application requirement in subsequent years by general law; and to specify that the provision takes effect December 7, 2006, is self-executing, and does not require implementing legislation.

Tax cut.

YES

NO. 8 – Eminent Domain

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to prohibit the transfer of private property taken by eminent domain to a natural person or private entity; providing that the Legislature may by general law passed by a three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature permit exceptions allowing the transfer of such private property; and providing that this prohibition on the transfer of private property taken by eminent domain is applicable if the petition of taking that initiated the condemnation proceeding was filed on or after January 2, 2007.

Key part of the amendment:

“Private property taken by eminent domain pursuant to a petition to initiate condemnation proceedings filed on or after January 2, 2007, may not be conveyed to a natural person or private entity except as provided by general law passed by a three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature.”

That’s got a nice ring to it doesn’t it? I’m curious to see if this will be challenged and ultimately overturned considering the U.S. Supreme Court’s despicable record on interpreting the United States Constitution’s “public use” clause.

YES

Homestead Exemptions

Florida’s homstead exemption property tax caps (similar to that of California’s Proposition 13) are in the news these days as it has become a central issue in the governors race. Currently some candidates like Charlie Crist are advocating allowing people to take their exemption with them when they move. The argument being that people are trapped in their homes and can’t move due to the large increase in property taxes on the new property. The counter argument is that the legislation should be removed entirely, since it is effectively a wealth redistribution system that moves money from the poor (people who rent and can’t afford to purchase) and businesses (commercial property is not covered) to the rich (people who can afford to buy a home in Florida’s market).

While I agree that Florida’s homestead exemption does inadvertently hurt the poor and commercial interests and favors the rich, I would argue that instead of removing these exemptions, the right approach would be to extend these exemptions to the folks who are not helped by it, especially to rental property owners. California’s Proposition 13 does this, it’s exemptions apply to commercial property as well, which evens the playing field. I find it odd though that nobody is talking about this solution, especially on the Democratic side. The idea here is to level the field and also limit the amount of money the government receives, not increase it. Which in turn forces to government to spend less, always a good thing IMHO. Although Crist is not going this far, I do like his idea of allowing people to carry their exemptions with them.

All of this comes up after I watched the Florida governor debates today thanks to Tivo. I think I’ve pretty much made up my mind, I’m going to go with Charlie Crist. Tom Gallagher is too hard core on social issues – the guy is practically foaming at the mouth at the thought of Roe vs. Wade being overturned so he can pass a law illegalizing abortion in the state of Florida. While I agree Roe vs. Wade should be overturned as it was unconstitutional, I can’t in good conscience vote for a guy who lets his religious beliefs dictate his decisions on such important issues. I think the Supreme Court implemented the right policy, and I think Crist would implement similar legislation at the state level.

For me, Crist seems more like Florida’s own version of Giuliani – he’s pro civil unions, and takes a moderate stance on abortion, but he’s also pretty conservative on things like education, where he’s for school vouchers, and in general is a fiscal conservative. Unfortunately I can’t vote in the primary as I’m registered independent, but it looks like Crist pretty much has that in the bag. If he wins, he’ll get my vote at this point.

Florida’s Budget Surplus

Jeb Bush recently published his proposed budget, which includes details on what the state will do with yet another state budget surplus, which is pretty amazing when you consider the state has no state income tax. The high points

* bulking up already existing state reserve funds – saving for a rainy day
* general tax cuts and tax refunds – essentially giving the revenue back to the people of Florida
* education spending – pumping more money into the state elementary school and university system
* environmental spending – cleaning up and protecting the everglades
* paying off long term state debt
* economic development and job growth

One of the “tax breaks” I’m going to try and take advantage of are hurricane reinforcement grants – if I have $10,000.00 worth of work done on my house (hurricane shutters, roof reinforcements, wall tie downs) the state will cut me a check for $5,000.00. This naturally, will increase the value of my home.

There is one low point in my opinion – $715 million is proposed to go to the the state run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, a state funded insurance company that provides policies to high risk coastal area property owners who get dropped by national insurance firms. Citizens Property Insurance is currently running a one billion dollar deficit, and it looks like government is going to pick up the tab instead of raising premiums. Isolating people from the costs through costly state funded insurance programs is not the way to go.

Overal though, IMHO our state really has it’s shit together. We have a balanced budget amendment, preventing the legislature from spending more than what we take in, and we have a line item veto which Bush has used repeatedly, slashing over $2 billion dollars in proposed state spending over the last eight years. We also have a constitutional amendment that requires the legislature publish cost analysis reports on all newly proposed constitutional spending initiatives. Recently this amendment helped convince the citizens of the state to cancel a costly high speed bullet train project, Florida’s own version of Amtrak.

I wish we didn’t have term limits on the governorship. If we didn’t, I’d vote for Jeb Bush over and over again and again.