The Florida Amendment Series: Amendment 7

posted by Claudia Mendoza - 

The Florida Amendment Series: Amendment 7 

Bottom Line: This is the seventh in a twelve-part series covering Florida’s proposed constitutional amendments. Amendments can be confusing enough to understand but furthering the confusion, while there were originally thirteen amendments scheduled for November’s ballot, a court ruling knocked the 8th off of the ballot. For that reason, you’ll see amendments 1 through 7 and 9 through 13. Each proposed amendment requires a minimum of 60% support to pass. Here’s how it will appear on the ballot: 

BALLOT TITLE: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities  

BALLOT SUMMARY: Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.  

Thoughts: First, here’s what changes should this be approved. Additional emergency professionals would be considered first responders under Florida law. Those professions are Paramedics, Medical technicians and all military members in the state, currently, only Florida’s National Guard is recognized. Second, provides death benefits to those with survivor’s rights in the event of the death of a first responder and waivers of most educational expenses. Third, state colleges would be granted the same status as Universities under the Florida Constitution. Fourth, the supermajority vote by colleges to raise or impose fees.  

I’m heavily conflicted by this amendment. I feel like an emotional appeal is being used to potentially enact policy that’s less than ideal. For example, you’ll not find someone more sympathetic for our military families than me. However, the reason we’ve only included the Florida National Guard as first responders in our state is due to the federal government already providing these benefits to families. It’s redundant to include in our state constitution and I feel like they’re being used to get the rest the desired outcomes to occur with this proposal. I also have questions about putting medical techs on the same constitutional ground as our military, police, and firefighters. I mean no disrespect but there may be other implications beyond even Florida taxpayer considerations that we’ve not considered. For these reasons, I’ll be voting no on Amendment 7. 

Photo by: RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

 

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