Sunday, October 14, 2018


On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, we the people of the United States will have the right to vote in one of the most consequential midterm elections of our lifetime. With Donald Trump and the GOP in firm control of all three branches of government, it has never been more important for us to get out to the polls and restore checks and balances to a system that is dangerously unbalanced and increasingly authoritarian and regressive. At the same time, Floridians are also being presented with one of the most important choices in our lifetimes. In the wake of a constitutional revision committee, we have 13 constitutional amendments on the ballot. It is vital that we make informed and careful choices about these amendments. Furthermore, we also have an exciting opportunity to elect an inspirational progressive leader to the Governor's office, an attorney general who will fight for all Floridians rights, and other important races to consider. I hope this guide will help people make informed choices about all of these races. 

Note: this is geared toward South Florida.


U.S. Senator - Bill Nelson

Governor and Lt. Governor - Andrew Gillum and Chris King

U.S. Congress:
FL 27: Donna Shalala
FL 26: Debbie Murcasel-Powel
FL-25: Mary Barzee Flores
FL-24: Federica Wilson
FL-23: Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Attorney General: Sean Shaw

Chief Financial Officer: Jeremy Ring

Commissioner of Agriculture: Nicole "Nikki" Fried

State Rep., District 113: Michael Grieco

Retain Kevin Emas
Retain Ivan F. Fernandez
Retain Norma Shepard Lindsey
Retain Robert Joshua Luck

11th Circuit, Group 14: Renee Gordon


Amendment 1: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption - NO

What it means: Grants an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for homes valued over $125,000. Owners of homes worth more than $100,000 would also receive an increase in their exemption. Small property tax break for some owners of more expensive homes, likely higher tax rates for all or big cuts to local programs.
Why I oppose: when homestead tax exemptions increase, local governments lose the ability to raise revenue. This results either in services being cut, or increased taxes on other areas. 

Amendment 2: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments - NO

What it means: Makes permanent what currently is a temporary cap of 10 percent on annual property value increases for vacation homes, apartments and commercial property, effectively limiting increases on tax bills.

Why I oppose: The market should decide the value of properties, not an arbitrary cap in the Constitution. Furthermore, the place for tax policy is in legislation, not the Constitution. Finally, as with amendment 1, this decreases potential tax liability for wealthy homeowners, shifting taxes onto the rest of the population (generally, the less wealthy). 

Amendment 3: Voter Control of Gambling - NO

What it means: Requires a citizen led constitutional amendment to approve new casino gambling.

Why I oppose: This helps creates a monopoly on gambling for the current holders of the limited number of licenses in Florida. It also will effectively stop the expansion of gambling in the state. While gambling is a complex issue, I think it is best to let our legislators decide how to deal with gambling, rather than putting this into the Constitution. Further, this will allow voters in one part of the state decide how to handle gambling in other parts of the state, and it will benefit powerful corporations who have the resources to put gambling initiatives up for referendum.

Amendment 4: Voting Restoration Amendment - YES!!!
What it means: Restores the eligibility to vote to Floridians with felony convictions who've completed their full sentence, excluding murder and sexual offenses.

Why I ENTHUSIASTICALLY support: Florida is one of the most regressive states in the Union regarding the rights of former felons. In most states, once you serve your time (or even just get probation with a plea), your civil rights are restored. In Florida, just one stupid mistake (or unlucky break) can mean you lose your right to vote FOR LIFE. The consequences of this law predictably fall on minorities who are far more likely to be prosecuted for crimes (such as drug offenses). 1.4 MILLION Floridians are affected by this unjust rule. In a few weeks, we have an incredible opportunity to reverse course and restore voting rights to 1.4 million people who have paid the price for their actions (with the exception of murderers and sex offenders). This is one of the biggest civil rights reforms in Florida’s history, so please be a part of it and vote YES on amendment 4!

Amendment 5: Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees - NO!!!!!

What it means: Requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to approve any new or increased taxes or fees, rather than a simple majority.

Why I STRONGLY oppose: Republicans want to get Government small enough that they can strangle it in the bath tub. One way they think they can achieve this ideal is by making it nearly impossible to raise revenues. Taxes and fees are already politically unpopular and take a great deal of hard work to pass. By making a supermajority requirement to raise ANY government revenue, we will, on the one hand, help lock in the current tax structure, while on the other hand, make future reforms difficult, if not impossible. For example, this amendment requires an almost impossible 2/3 legislative vote to end tax breaks for big corporations or for the state to pay for improving schools or emergency responses to weather or environmental crises. This is also a political hedge by Republicans, in case they ever lose a majority in the state House and Senate. This is a backward way to hamstring government. Vote NO.

Amendment 6: Rights of Crime Victims, Judges - NO!

What it means: Deletes constitutional protections for the accused; expands already existing constitutional protections for victims; and creates constitutional rights for corporations in our criminal justice system.

Why I oppose: This amendment is misleadingly referred to as a “rights of victims” amendment, but in fact provides victims with no new meaningful justice while undermining due process for people accused of crimes. Amendment 6 would give huge corporations a new right to inject themselves into criminal proceedings and appear in court with their high-powered lawyers to have a say in sentencing and bail hearings when they accuse people of even relatively minor crimes such as shoplifting. The amendment would upset the balance between the rights of victims and people accused of crimes by permanently deleting the part of the constitution that ensures balancing the rights of all involved in a criminal case. Please oppose this misleading amendment.

Amendment 7: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities - NO

What it means: Creates a supermajority requirement for universities to impose new or increase existing student fees; enshrines in the Constitution guidelines for the State College System; mandates that employers or the state pay a death benefit to first responders and members of the military killed in the line of duty.

Why I oppose: As with amendment 5, we do not need or want a supermajority requirement to raise revenue. Family members of the military who die in the line of service are already compensated through the federal government.

Amendment 9: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Work Spaces - YES

What it means: Protects Florida’s coasts by banning oil drilling in Florida’s near-shore waters. Bans vaping inside workplaces.

Why I support: Remember Deepwater Horizon? Care about climate change? With the environmental hazards associated with deepwater drilling, we simply can't afford the risk to Florida's number one economic engine - our coast.

Amendment 10: State and Local Government Structure and Operation - NO

What it means: Requires all Florida counties to elect all constitutional officers, even if their local charters as approved by local citizens and policy-makers have chosen not to. Requires the Legislature to hold its session in early January on even-numbered years; creates an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; mandates the existence of a state Department of Veterans’ Affairs;

Why I oppose: This limits the voters in local communities from deciding on the election of county officers. It adds an unnecessary provision as the Constitution already has the power to set dates during even numbered years. FDLE is already the lead agency in coordinating efforts to prevent terrorism, and the Constitution already has authorized the Legislature to create a Department of Veteran Affairs. This amendment is clearly an effort to restrict the powers of local government (and is specifically aimed at Miami-Dade County!).

Amendment 11: Property Rights: Removal of Obsolete Provisions; Criminal Statutes - YES

What it means: Repeals the state’s ability to prohibit non-citizens from buying, owning and selling property; deletes a provision that forces the state to prosecute criminal suspects under the law they were originally charged under, even if the Legislature changes that law; deletes obsolete language having to do with high-speed rail in Florida.

Why I support: The ban on non-citizens owning property, although unenforceable, nevertheless enshrines discrimination in our state Constitution. It is way past time for us to take this offensive provision out of our Constitution. Also, it is a good thing to allow criminal justice reforms to apply retroactively.

Amendment 12: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers - YES

What it does: Expands ethics rules for elected officials and government employees, notably by expanding from two to six years the time that many officials would have to wait before they could lobby state government.

Why I support: Six years is a long time. The current prohibition is two years. However, we’ve seen too many lawmakers skirt even that rule by acting as, say, paid consultants before the time is up. Plus, there’s the perception, to say nothing of the reality, that some legislators are auditioning for their next job when they should be serving their constituents. Many government-watchdog groups support this amendment

Amendment 13: Ends Dog Racing - YES

What it means: phases out commercial greyhound racing by 2020.

Why I support: According to the state Division of Parimutuel Wagering, a dog dies on a Florida track every three days. Animal advocates say that the greyhounds are confined in cages for up to 23 hours a day. This is a cruel, anachronistic form of entertainment, and it should end.


County Referendum 1: Relating to Nonpartisan Election of Clerk of the Circuit Court - YES

This amendment would end partisan primaries for the position of Miami-Dade Clerk of the Court. Harvey Ruvin, a Democrat, has held this office since 1992 and has been reelected five times. Here’s the reasoning for the change: All other county offices face nonpartisan primaries. That means every candidate runs regardless of party affiliation. But the clerk’s office is the exception. The amendment would switch the position to a nonpartisan office for the next clerk’s election in 2020. This will bring the office in line with the others and could cut back on potential partisan appeals.

County Referendum 2: Charter Amendment Relating to County Appointed Officials and Employees Running for Certain Elective Office - YES

The charter currently requires that county appointed or county employees qualifying to run for federal, state or city level elections take a leave of absence and if elected, resign. If approved by voters, employees would only have to take a leave of absence during an election only if they are running for county office, meaning the employees could serve at the federal, state and city levels. Good idea. It can help prevent staffers from using their county positions to curry favor with voters

County Referendum 3: Charter Amendment Relating to Review of Initiatory Petitions for Legal Sufficiency - YES

This amendment is practical. It would require county attorneys to weigh in on the legality of a proposed ordinance before it becomes the subject of a petition drive. Currently, the charter lets voters approve ordinances by referendum if enough voters sign petitions to put the item on a ballot. If passed, the ordinances must remain on the books for a year before the commission can alter or repeal them.

County Referendum 4: Charter Amendment Regarding Elections for County Commissioners and Mayors - YES

This is another very practical amendment that would allow the Elections Department not to count votes for unopposed, disqualified, dead or withdrawn candidates. The county already follows this procedure, citing state law. But the county’s charter is mostly silent on the matter. This amendment would add language explicitly authorizing the practice. It would also endorse canceling elections for candidates who run unopposed, which the county also does already.

County Referendum 5: Charter Amendment Prohibiting Certain Payments Circulators of Initiatory Petitions - NO

In principle, this is designed to take money out of politics; make it impossible to pay people to gather signatures to put an initiative on the ballot. But I worry about the consequences of this. I have worked on campaigns and they are hard and time-consuming. It is entirely plausible that a great initiative could benefit from paid workers, walking the streets to gather signatures. I don't like this because it makes it harder for people to get organized and gather petitions, needing to rely only on volunteers. 


Referendum to Approve Ad Valorem Levy for Teachers, Instructional Personnel, School Safety and Security - YES!

Teachers in Miami-Dade County and underpaid, and we need better school security. This measure would allow increased funding for both. Let's improve our schools and education by voting YES.


Referendum 1: Establing City of Miami Beach Office of Inspector General - YES

This is a no brainer. This office will help provide oversight to prevent corruption and increase government transparency and accountability. Please vote yes.

Referendum 2: Referendum re: Use of Rent Payments Receive by City from Convention Center Hotel Lease - YES

If voters approve referendum 3 (which I support - see below), then this referendum allows the City to adopts an ordinance to use the money derived from the property's rent (projected at $16 million over next 10 years) to support stormwater projects, traffic reduction measures, and education. These are all important, worthy investments we need to make in Miami Beach.

Referendum 3: Approval of City's Lease fo City Property for Convention Center Hotel - YES

In the past, I opposed previous hotels on this property because they destroyed the historic Jackie Gleason Theater and were just too tall for the area. This new proposal is shorter and preserves the Fillmore. Moreover, after investing millions in the new Convention Center, it makes economic sense to have a hotel attached that can service convention goers. I think traffic concerns are also overblown, as a hotel on-site may actually lower traffic to and from the center by having people stay there and walk. Its also a major revenue growth opportunity for the City. For these reasons, I support the new hotel.

Referendums 4, 5 and 6: Revenue Bonds - YES

These revenue bonds will allow the City to acquire the capital needed to make important investments in our public infrastructure, including our parks, recreational facilities, and cultural facilities; neighborhood and infrastructure; and police, fire, public safety, and security improvements. These are all sensible upgrades to our City. Please vote yes.

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