An aide to the amendments

People voting this year will be deciding on much more than the presidency. This year’s ballot has on it eight amendments to the state constitution.

Amendment 1 — Parental Notification of a Minor’s Termination of Pregnancy: This amendment is pretty much what its title implies. It would require minors to let their parents know before they get an abortion. This amendment was proposed because the state Supreme Court deemed a similar law unconstitutional recently on the grounds of privacy rights. There is a stipulation that if a minor decides that they can’t tell their parents, a judge can decide whether to give consent or not.

Opponents of this amendment worry that many judges will be opposed to abortion in general and deny them based on principle. Supporters of this amendment argue that abortion is a major decision and that minors should seek council from their parents before making such a decision.

Amendment 2 — Constitutional Amendments Proposed by Initiative: This amendment is one of the simpler ones. It moves the due date for amendments proposed by citizens from April 1 to Feb. 1 of the election year. The Florida Legislature proposed this amendment to curtail what they see as proposition of frivolous amendments.

Amendment 3 — The Medical Claimant’s Compensation Amendment: This amendment may be one of the more confusing and misunderstood ones, mostly because there are television ads for and against it that just say which way you should vote and don’t actually explain the amendment. The amendment directly affects the amount of money from malpractice suits a lawyer can receive.

If the amendment passes lawyers will be limited to 30 percent of the first $250,000 of damages that a claimant receives and 10 percent of all damages over $250,000. It is not a cap on the amount awarded in malpractice suits like many people think.

The most fervent opponents of this amendment are lawyers. They say that it will encourage lawyers to only go for the smaller, easier and less important cases because the bigger cases will have less of a reward. Doctors argue that it will limit the amount of frivolous lawsuits in general.

Amendment 4 — Authorizes Miami-Dade and Broward County Voters to Approve Slot Machines in Parimutuels: This amendment allows the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward to hold their own vote to decide if they want to allow slot machines in already licensed parimutuel (thoroughbred and harness racing, greyhound racing, and jai-lai) establishments. The legislature would be able to tax the slot machines and use the money for education funding.

Opponents of the amendment are mostly those opposed to gambling in general as well as animal rights activists who oppose animal racing.

Teacher’s groups generally are in favor of this as they see it as a way to raise more money for schools.

Amendment 5 — Florida Minimum Wage Amendment: This amendment raises the minimum wage in the state of Florida to $6.15 an hour. It also stipulates that the minimum wage will be indexed with inflation every year.

Opponents fear that the amendment will, by increasing the costs of goods and services, cause inflation and since it is indexed by inflation will cause a cycle raising minimum wage higher than voters would think. They also fear that it will hurt small businesses and make them cut back on employees.

Those in favor of the amendment argue that the current minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, is not enough to keep a full-time worker above the poverty line. They also argue that it only affects the hospitality and fast food industries

Amendment 6 — Repeal of High-Speed Rail Amendment: This repeals the amendment passed in 2002 stating that Florida must build a high-speed transportation system going to and from various cities in the state. The state has yet to act on the 2002 amendment.

Those in favor of this amendment say that the 2002 amendment was frivolous, overly expensive and had no reason to be an amendment rather than a law. They say that funds for the project would probably end up coming from tax dollars.

Those opposed to this amendment are those who still want the high-speed transportation system.

Amendment 7 — Patient’s Right to Know About Adverse Medical Incidents: This would allow people to review the records of health care facilities or providers to find out about things like malpractice and deaths. No patient names would be revealed in this process. There would probably be a fee involved with retrieving the records.

Doctors are opposed to this because they see it as an invasion of privacy. They also see it as something lawyers will use against them.

Consumer advocacy groups are in favor of this because they think it will enable patients to make more informed decisions of health care providers. Lawyers are also in favor of this because it will give them more information to use in cases dealing with doctors.

Amendment 8 — Public Protection from Repeated Malpractice: This amendment states that any doctor who has been found to have committed three or more incidents of medical malpractice will no longer be licensed to practice medicine in Florida.

Doctors are very opposed to this amendment. They argue that three is far too small of a number. They also argue that it will deter doctors from practicing in Florida and cause a mass exodus of the ones who already do. They also say it will cause a large number of voluntary settlements of malpractice suits (because those don’t count in the three as long as there is no admission of guilt from the doctor). They say this will lead to more frivolous lawsuits because lawyers will know that doctors have to settle because they can’t afford to defend themselves in court due to the chance they might lose.

Consumer advocacy groups are for this amendment because they say it will increase the standards of medicine in the state. Lawyers are also for this amendment for the same reason that doctors are against it. It will force doctors to settle more often because they can’t take the chance of going to court.