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Sunday, April 11, 2021

For the second day of early voting, The Alligator is releasing its endorsements for amendments to the Florida Constitution and local questions. We base our recommendations on how each would benefit Florida’s citizens and the environment. As a rule, if the intent of the amendment isn’t clear when reading it, we’d recommend voting no.

Amendment 1 - Vote NO

This amendment raises the amount of a home’s value that can be exempted from property taxes, excluding school taxes. This amendment would help homeowners, who would save about $250 on their tax bills. However, they would likely still pay the tax one way or another — local governments would lose revenue vital for police and fire services.

Amendment 2 - Vote YES

Amendment 2 would make permanent the current cap limiting property-tax assessment increases to 10 percent annually for commercial properties. The current cap is set to expire in 2019. Should the cap expire, it would cause a large tax increase on 530,000 residential and commercial property owners in Florida.

Amendment 3 - Vote YES

Amendment 3 would grant voters sole discretion to authorize expansions of casino gambling in Florida. The proposal would empower corporations with the resources to gather lots of signatures on petitions. Although it allows for a monopoly of the industry, it would eliminate the incentive casino owners would have to contribute to political candidates.

Amendment 4 - Vote YES

This amendment would restore voting rights to felons after their release from prison — felons convicted of murder or sex offenses will not have their rights restored. Under the current system, felons must apply to a clemency board to regain their voting rights. That process can take more than 10 years.

We hope that those convicted of murder and sex offenses will see a future amendment that addresses their rights.

Amendment 5 - Vote NO

Amendment 5 would bar the Florida Legislature from raising taxes without a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate. This amendment adds additional hurdles for legislators in making a well-balanced budget, making it harder to raise taxes even when it would be vital.

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Amendment 6 - Vote NO

Amendment 6 would give victims of crimes the right to be “reasonably protected from the accused,” have their safety considered when judges set bail, increase the mandatory retirement age for judges by five years, to 75, and prevent judges from giving preference to a state agency’s interpretation of a statute. This amendment adds requirements to an overworked justice system and eliminates a provision that ensures the rights of the accused are not violated by the victim.

Amendment 7 - Vote NO

Amendment 7 would provide college tuition to spouses and children of military members and first responders killed while on duty. There is a negligible tax increase, but the amendment also changes the way public university trustees can vote to raise tuition fees.

Amendment 9 - Vote YES

Amendment 9 bans offshore drilling that poses an environmental hazard for Florida. It is bundled with a ban on vaping inside workplaces, which is a benign side effect to increased environmental protection.

Amendment 10 - Vote NO

This amendment requires the state’s legislative session to start in January, create a counter-terrorism office, make the state veterans affairs department constitutionally required and require five county-level offices to be elected. The last requirement tells local government what to do at the state level, which is why we recommend a vote against the amendment.

Amendment 11 - Vote NO

Amendment 11 prevents “aliens inevitable for citizenship” from owning property. It allows applying an updated version of a criminal statute to sentencing a crime committed before the update. Put simply, it allows for a judge to apply a harsher sentence to a crime that has already been committed, and continue a prosecution under a statute that has already been repealed.

Amendment 12 - Vote YES

The Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers Amendment would bar public officials from lobbying while in office and six years afterward and prevent current officeholders from profiting from their position.

Amendment 13 - Vote YES

Ends Dog Racing would put an end to greyhound racing involving betting over the next two years. We agree with animal rights activists — the inhumane way in which the dogs are raced and treated must come to an end.

Alachua County Question 1 - Vote YES

This proposal would create a Children’s Trust, which will have authority to tax up to 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value to provide developmental and supportive services for children from birth to 18 years old.

Alachua County Question 2 - Vote YES

The proposal would cost about $5 per month for the average family in Alachua by raising the sales tax to seven cents per dollar. It provides vital funding for the county’s schools.

Municipal Referenda 1 - Vote NO

The proposed GRU Authority would take control of Gainesville’s utilities away from the elected City Commission and give it to a board selected by the commission. This is opposed by the entire Gainesville City Commission, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

Municipal Referenda 2 - Vote YES

This proposal would move the elections of Mayor and City Commission from March to the fall cycle so they coincide with the primary and midterm elections. This will presumably raise student-voter turnout and save Gainesville about $200,000 per election.

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