The Pardu

The Pardu
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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Florida League of Women Voters Fights for the Rights of People


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Fighting for the People's Rights! 


From fighting injustice voter suppression to proposed amendments to the Florida State Constitution,  the Florida League of Women Voters (FLWV) works towards fulfillment of its Mission (see below). Voter registration and legislative issues are two battlegrounds for the FLWV.  Let's walk through both issues; voter suppression first followed by combating 12 proposed amendments to the Florida State constitution. 

Voter Suppression

Fox News and former Andrew Breitbart's video attack campaign literally destroyed and rendered nation's largest progressive voter registration organization persona-non-grata and eventually dead.

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, ACORN, an anti-poverty and community services program may have been responsible for registering more underprivileged potential voters than any organization in America. There were cases of legitimate voter fraud perpetrated by hourly paid or piece work ACORN employees. A few cases were discovered and reported by ACORN management staff. The cases of voter fraud may not have been any more significant to a specific election than recent reports of white collar voter fraud perpetrated Republican officials and operatives. ACORN was a target from strategy focused on taking down minority votes for progressive causes and progressive candidates.



Number prior to the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States and numbers that were unacceptable moving towards the 2010 and 2012 elections.

In 2010, Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote for Common Dreams Dot Org.
After 18 months of screaming headlines and attacks vilifying the anti-poverty group ACORN--attacks reminiscent of a New McCarthyism that threatened the group's very existence--it's clear now that this was a right-wing witch-hunt which, sadly, too many Democrats and the mainstream media failed to fact-check.
In December, the Congressional Research Service cleared ACORN of allegations of improper use of federal funding and voter registration fraud. The latest to weigh-in on the controversy is Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. After a four-month investigation Hynes declared "no criminality has been found" with regard to the conduct of three ACORN employees in the infamous and--turns out--misnamed "pimp-prostitute" video.
In fact, a law enforcement source told the New York Daily News that the unedited version of the video which caused all the outrage "was not clear." 
"They edited the tape to meet their agenda," said the official. 
Conservative operative James O'Keefe--who was later arrested after an alleged attempt to bug the office of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu's office in New Orleans--was in reality wearing a white shirt and khakis in the ACORN office and posing as a law school student trying to protect his girlfriend from an abusive pimp. The outrageous pimp outfit was shot later and used to promote the video.

After successfully killing ACORN, the Right embarked on other and more pervasive strategies to eliminate the impact of historic progressive voting blocs. The strategies have been targeted on critical bellwether (voting) states. Any state that previously leaned progressive, went progressive for candidate Obama, or any state with significant black and Latino population became post 2010 election targets for voter suppression. The 2010 'shellacking' left the nation with predominant GOP state legislatures, many additional GOP Governors and a House of Representatives literally infested with tea party members of Congress. Organized voter suppression under the guise of Voter ID Laws provided real opportunity to eliminate millions who previously showed inclination to vote for Democratic candidates.


Voter ID laws began to proliferate like weeds in an unkempt front yard. The laws not only worked to disenfranchise millions of African-American and Latino voters, the laws also affected voting rights of the elderly, college students and in some case active military personnel. Voter Suppression is being successfully dismantled via legal challenges in various state courts.


One case of organized and effective suppression led to voter registration retrenchment by another of the nations more prolific registration organizations. The Florida League of women Voters stopped registration initiatives and efforts as a result of Florida Voter ID Laws that carried harsh penalties for registration activities.


While the Voted ID Laws restricted the Florida Leagues opportunity to register potential voters, the restriction were recently reversed via legal action.


The FLWV and Proposed Constitutional Amendments



MISSION


Mission Photo 1 bereadyThe League of Women Voters of Florida, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

WHERE THE LEAGUE STANDS ON THE 2012 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS


The titles of the amendments below are those that voters will actually see on the ballot this November; the League opposes all 11 amendments. These amendments were all placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature and, if approved, would become part of the Florida Constitution. 
There are five amendments on the ballot that address reductions in local property taxes. If all five (2, 4, 9, 10, 11) were to pass, local governments would lose over $1 billion over the first three years of implementation. In addition to concerns that this lost revenue could result in cuts to essential services, such as education, transportation and public safety, the League’s position has always been that no tax sources or revenues should be specified, limited, exempted or prohibited in the Constitution. 
It is important to note that this information only applies to state amendments; accordingly, voters should be aware of amendments to their respective local, county or city governing structures. 

1. Health Care Services


This amendment would allow Florida to opt out of federal health care reform (i.e. the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT.


2. Veterans Disabled Due to Combat Injury; Homestead Property Tax Discount


This amendment expands the homestead exemption to disabled veterans who were not Florida residents when they entered military service. 

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT. 

The League of Women Voters of Florida position is that there should be no increase or extension of homestead exemption. Also, as mentioned above on the introduction, our position states that no tax sources or revenues should be specified, limited, exempted, or prohibited in the Constitution. This amendment, if passed, would cost local governments $15 million over the first three years of implementation.

3. State Government Revenue Limitation


This amendment replaces the existing state revenue limitation based on Florida personal income growth with a new state revenue limitation based on inflation and population changes.

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT.  

The League of Women Voters of Florida believes that the state of Florida has an infrastructure deficit, and that state service levels and the quality of life are declining. Because the long-term goals of the state comprehensive plan were designed to reverse decline in levels of service and improve the quality of life, League members find these goals are generally desirable and worth working toward. LWVF has been speaking out against this amendment for several sessions of the legislature and during the 2008 Tax and Budget Reform Commission (where the amendment was defeated). This legislation was passed in Colorado in 1992, and has negatively affected the state's ability to fund essential public services such as health care, transportation and education.

4. Property Tax Limitation; Property Value Decline; Reduction for Non-Homestead Assessment Increases; Delay of Scheduled Repeal


This amendment would reduce the annual growth in assessment limitation on certain non-homestead property from 10% to 5%. It would prohibit increases in the assessed value of homestead property and certain non-homestead property when the market value of the property decreases. It also gives first time homesteaders an additional exemption equal to 50% of the median just value of the property; this exemption diminishes to zero over a five year period. This amendment would also give out-of-state residents the benefit of the homestead tax exemption.

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT FOR THE SAME REASONS STATED FOR OPPOSING AMENDMENT 2. Amendment 4, if passed, would cost local governments $1 billion over the first three years of implementation.

5. State Courts


This amendment adds a requirement that Supreme Court justices appointed by the Governor must also be confirmed by the Senate in order to take office.  It also authorizes the repeal of a court rule by a simple majority of the legislature instead of the 2/3 majority now required. The amendment also would allow the House of Representatives to review all files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission without regard to whether the request is specifically related to impeachment considerations.

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT. 

The League believes that the Governor should be able to appoint judges from a group of nominees selected by a panel or commission composed of members of the Florida Bar and lay members, and that judges should be retained in office by means of periodic review through an election in which a judge would run unopposed and solely on his/her record. The League also believes an independent judiciary is essential to the balance of power, and feels that this amendment weakens the judiciary in favor of the legislative branch. 

6. Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights

Federal law prohibits the expenditure of federal funds for most abortions; this amendment would enshrine those prohibitions in the state Constitution. There is another provision in the amendment that would stop the use of the state Constitution's privacy clause in abortion cases; courts would no longer be able to use the clause in defending abortion rights. 

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT. 

The League believes that public policy in a pluralistic society must affirm the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices.

8. Religious Freedom

This amendment would repeal a 126-year-old provision in the state Constitution that prohibits taxpayer funding of religious institutions. If passed, the amendment would allow the state to use taxpayer monies to fund religious institutions and schools.

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT. 

The League supports adequate funding of public education with no use of public funding for the expansion or funding of private education through a voucher program. LWVF supports a free public school system with high standards for student achievement and with equality of educational opportunity for all that is financed adequately by the state through an equitable funding formula.

9. Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder

This amendment grants full homestead property tax relief to the surviving spouses of military veterans and first responders killed in the line of duty. The deceased must have been a permanent resident of Florida as of January 1 of the year they died.

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT FOR THE SAME REASONS STATED FOR OPPOSING AMENDMENT 2. Amendment 9, if passed, would cost local governments $1.8 million over the first three years of implementation.

10. Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption

This amendment affects businesses only and pertains to equipment or furniture used in a business. Under current law, the first $25,000 of tangible personal property is exempt from taxation; this amendment will raise that exemption to $50,000. Cities and counties will be able to grant additional exemptions.

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT FOR THE SAME REASONS STATED FOR OPPOSING AMENDMENT 2. If passed, this amendment would cost local governments $61 million over the first three years of implementation.

11. Additional Homestead Exemption for Low-Income Seniors who Maintain Long-Term Residency on Property; Equal to Assessed Value

This amendment grants full homestead property tax relief to low-income seniors who have lived in their home for at least 25 years.

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT FOR THE SAME REASONS STATED FOR OPPOSING AMENDMENT 2. Amendment 11, if passed and enacted universally throughout the state, would cost local governments $27.8 million over the first three years of implementation.

12. Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System

The State University System is governed by a 17-member Board of Governors. Currently, the president of the Florida Student Association is a member of the board. This amendment would create a new council composed of student body presidents, and the chair of that council would replace the current FSA representative on the Board of Governors. 

THE LEAGUE OPPOSES THIS AMENDMENT. 

The League believes that the Constitution should be a simple, understandable and integrated statement of basic law, free from obsolete and statutory detail.

Educated people make better decisions.

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