By Samantha Joseph
TREASURE COAST - Twelve proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
They cover a broad range of issues, including allowing religious organizations to receive public funds, increasing homestead exemptions for new homebuyers, providing a tax break for disabled veterans and requiring Senate confirmation of the governor's nominees for the Florida Supreme Court.
This week and next week, Hometown News will outline the amendments in groups due to space consideration. This week features amendments five through eight. The first four amendments were summarized here last week.
Here's a voters' guide based on information from The Collins Center for Public Policy, a think-tank that examines statewide issues, and analysis from The James Madison Institute, a non-partisan policy center based in Tallahassee. For additional analysis and the full text of the proposed amendments, visit www.FLAmendments.org.
Hometown News does not endorse any amendment, but instead, provides information about each proposal for voters to make educated decisions.
Title: State courts
In brief: Amendment 5's main features include Senate confirmation of the governor's nominees for the Florida Supreme Court and more legislative oversight over judicial rules.
If you vote yes: It means you want the Senate to have confirmation power over Supreme Court appointees, and some authority over changes to the rules that govern the state's courts. You also want to grant the house access to the judicial qualifications commission's investigative files on judges.
If you vote no: It means you do not want these proposed changes made to the state's judiciary.
Arguments for: Supporters say the measure would make the appellate court system run more efficiently and add a layer of accountability before Supreme Court justices are appointed.
Arguments against: Opponents say the measure is a dangerous attempt to exert political influence over the judicial branch by giving legislators more authority.
Title: Prohibition on public funding of abortions; construction of abortion rights
What it would do: This amendment would make the existing federal ban on public funding for most abortions part of the state constitution. It would narrow the scope of a state privacy law that is sometimes used in Florida to challenge abortion laws.
If you vote yes: It means you support putting the existing federal ban on the use of public funds for abortions into the state constitution. It also means you support eliminating the state's privacy right with respect to a woman's right to choose.
If you vote no: It means you are against placing the existing federal ban on using public funds for abortions into the state constitution. It also means you are against eliminating the state's privacy right with respect to a woman's right to choose.
Arguments for: Supporters say this makes it clear Florida prohibits public funding for abortions and gives the public a voice in deciding state abortion law.
Arguments against: Opponents say this amendment discriminates against women, strips away a woman's fundamental right to choose and erodes established law, including right of privacy.
Note: Amendment 7 was removed from the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled that some of the language was misleading. A legal challenge by opponents led to the rewriting of some of the ballot language and its reinstatement on the ballot as Amendment 8.
Title: Religious freedom
What it would do: Would remove the prohibition in Florida's Constitution that prevents religious institutions from receiving taxpayer funding. According to the James Madison Institute, Amendment 8 would repeal the so-called "Blaine Amendment," which prohibits the appropriation of public funds, directly or indirectly, in aid of religion. Repeal would allow faith-based entities to receive public funds for providing public services.
If you vote yes: It means you want to remove from the Florida Constitution a prohibition against the state funding religious institutions and replace it with a provision that prohibits the state from denying funding to institutions based on religious affiliations.
If you vote no: It means you want to retain the provision in the Florida Constitution that prohibits the state from funding religious institutions.
Arguments for: Supporters say the amendment would allow the state to fund programs that provide a valuable public service but are currently denied that funding because they are affiliated with religious organizations. They say the current law from 1885 is rooted in anti-Catholic bias.
Arguments against: Opponents say the amendment would eliminate a long-established component of the separation of church and state that prevents the government from funding groups that espouse religious beliefs. They also deny an anti-Catholic bias.