Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Summary of the 2014 Proposed Constitutional Amendments - Remember to Vote on November 4

The following is a summary of the three proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on the Florida ballot on November 4.  Florida Health Care Association has compiled this summary for informational purposes only – to help you be informed. This is not intended to provide any type of legal advice or guidance.  It is simply intended to provide a review of the proposed constitutional amendments, arguments for and against, a listing of proponents and opponents and whether the proposals could be accomplished by the Legislature.

In order to be adopted, each constitutional amendment requires 60 percent of the vote for passage. As many of you know, the turnout for the primary was very low (17.5%), and your vote is important.  As you read the proposed constitutional amendments, consider whether it could be added via a statutory change -- instead of via the state's Constitution. Please keep in mind that it's easier to amend or delete statutes, but extremely difficult to make changes to the Florida Constitution. Furthermore, the Constitution is considered a framework of state government and not a place to add special interest proposals or laws.

*Please note that FHCA has NOT taken an official position on any of the proposed amendments.
Summary of Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Water and Land Conservation (Sponsored by Florida's Water and Land Legacy, Inc.)
If adopted, this would fund the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands, including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.

Florida's Water and Land Legacy, Inc.
Florida Wildlife Federation
Florida Conservation Coalition
Florida Outdoor Recreation Coalition
Florida Recreation and Park Association
Florida Chapter American Planning Association
Their Arguments: This amendment will keep drinking water clean. It will protect our rivers, springs and beaches and restore natural treasures like the Everglades – without any increase in taxes.
Florida Chamber of Commerce
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam
Their Arguments: This amendment will tie the hands of future Legislatures.  It obligates taxpayers to arbitrarily give government more control over land. The government already owns a large portion of land in Florida and there is no reason they need more. Funding for this amendment will come from the Documentary Stamp Tax (1/3 of "doc stamp" revenue). Revenues generated from the doc stamp are already low due to the recession. If 1/3 of its revenues go into a new trust, then it would take away from revenues now used for other purposes. Thus, there is a clear cost to this amendment.
Can this be accomplished by the Florida Legislature? Yes. The Legislature is able to appropriate funds for acquisition and environmental protection.

What is the effect on the long term care profession? No direct impact.
Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions (Sponsored by People United for Medical Marijuana)

If adopted, this would allow the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.  It would allow caregivers to assist patients' medical use of marijuana. This provides that the Department of Health must register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and it is required to issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. This would only apply for Florida law, and it does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
Florida Cannabis Action Network
Florida Cannabis Industry Association
Libertarian Party of Florida
Their Arguments: Doctors will have the freedom to recommend the treatment they believe appropriate for their patients – including medical marijuana. Marijuana is currently legal as medicine in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and it has been shown to be an effective treatment for the symptoms and side effects associated with HIV/AIDS, cancer, Hepatitis C, PTSD, multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular disorders, glaucoma, dystonia and chronic pain. The American College of Physicians, American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association and many other associations and organizations support the availability of medicinal marijuana.
Florida Sheriffs Association
Florida Police Chiefs Association
Florida Medical Association
Florida Family Policy Council
Their Arguments: The legalization of marijuana will allow for the drug to be more readily available and easier to obtain by teens, as they would not need parental consent to get a "physician's certification" for marijuana. With no quality or dosage control, it will open the door for "pop-up" dispensaries. There is also nothing in place to prevent these dispensaries from selling marijuana to minors. Additionally, areas with dispensaries will attract more crime.
Can this be accomplished by the Florida Legislature?  Yes.  A law was adopted during the 2014 Legislative session permitting the sale of low TCH medical marijuana, known as "Charlotte's Webb."
What is the effect on the long term care profession?  Undetermined.
Prospective Appointment of Certain Judicial Vacancies (Sponsored by Florida Legislature - Legislative Joint Resolution CS/SJR 1188)
If adopted, it requires the governor to prospectively fill vacancies in a judicial office to which election for retention applies resulting from the justice's or judge's reaching the mandatory retirement age or failure to qualify for a retention election; and allowing prospective appointments if a justice or judge is not retained at an election. Currently, the governor may not fill an expected vacancy until the current justice's or judge's term expires.
Florida House and Senate Republicans
Their Arguments: This will allow the governor to allow the Judicial Nominating Commission to begin looking for appointees at the time a judicial candidate fails to qualify for retention and will reduce vacancies and vacancy time. If a judge is retiring due to age, then there is no need for the governor to wait until a judge completes his or her term to pick a successor, regardless of when the current governor's term is up.
Florida House and Senate Democrats
League of Women Voters
Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Tribune
Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
Palm Beach Post
Sarasota Herald Tribune
Their Arguments: An outgoing governor should not be able to make appointments that serve under the incoming governor. The incoming governor should be able to appoint judges of his own choosing. It is bad policy to for an outgoing governor to decide the balance of the court.
Can this be accomplished by the Florida Legislature?  No. The selection of judicial vacancies is set out in Article V, Section 11 of the Florida Constitution.
What is the effect on the long term care profession? No direct impact.
We hope that this synopsis is helpful. It is intended to be informational. If we can answer any questions, please feel free to contact a member of FHCA's Government Affairs team.