If you have not filled out your ballot by now, chances are you will not vote or you are still waiting to make an informed decision. For the latter, there is still hope.
To help you make that informed decision, columnist Daniel Dunn and I will look at six of the amendments in closer detail. We will share our views and rationales and leave you to be the judge.
When you get past the convoluted wording on the ballot, Amendment 1 amounts to deleting some text from the Article I, Section 2: Basic Rights passage in the Florida Constitution, which, according to the Florida Legislature Web site, reads:
“All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property; except that the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship may be regulated or prohibited by law. No person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or physical disability.”
The underlined portion would be deleted with a yes vote.
The inheritance part was primarily what caught my attention. I feel that if you are a U.S. citizen, you should be allowed to leave your property to whomever you wish. Hypothetically, this dated verbiage could be used to prohibit a loved one deemed ineligible for citizenship from inheriting your property.
The clause was introduced to prevent Asian farmers from buying farmland in 1926, according to the non-partisan Web site Flamendments.org. Because of this history, most people are jumping to a yes vote.
I admit that the section has a discriminatory tone. However, I think calling it racist goes too far. Property right issues still have relevance today with regard to globalization and national security, especially with foreign companies buying American real estate.
Discrimination aside, the inheritance aspect will win my yes vote.
Probably the most controversial amendment on the ballot this year, Amendment 2 seeks to “protect” marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman and prohibit legal unions between same-sex couples. The sponsor is an organization known as Florida4Marriage.org, according to the Florida Division of Elections Web site.
The organization, which has changed its name to Yes2marriage.org, describes itself on its Web site as one that promotes healthy marriages. The group’s main argument is that same-sex unions harm children since “kids need a mom and a dad.”
This argument is a moot point. There are plenty of kids being raised in straight households with two dysfunctional parents. Meanwhile, there are several single-parent households that provide a loving atmosphere.
Kids need good homes, not bureaucracy. Discrimination against gay couples is not going to create loving households. Additionally, the financial impact is undetermined, according to the ballot. For all anyone knows, this could create an additional tax burden.
Honestly, I am surprised the amendment made the ballot. Since marriage is a focal point for many religions, it would seem that legislating what it entails would violate the principle of separation of church and state.
Fundamentalists may disagree, but for me, a vote of no is a no-brainer.
Amendment 3 is tricky. It aims to exempt hurricane-related upgrades and renewable energy devices — such as solar panels — when property is assessed for tax purposes, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
With these improvements, the value of your home would go up and you would not have to pay taxes on it. From an economics standpoint, this seems like a great incentive for people to protect their homes and help the environment.
But there are a few problems with it.
First, there is already a tax exemption on the books for renewable energy sources. That exemption would no longer apply if this amendment were passed. So, the environmental benefit would be essentially unchanged.
Second, the amendment only applies to new construction. If you have upgraded your home already, you are out of luck. The amendment should be retroactive.
Lastly, a tax reduction would result in less revenue for the state, which is already dealing with budget restraints. The trade-off for saving some homeowners money would be state cutbacks in other areas.
Homeowners will already be saving on insurance with such improvements. They will also reap the benefits when the house sells.
Consequently, I do not see the need for a tax break and will vote no.
Jeremy Castanza is a junior majoring in economics.