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The Four Amendments on our ballots

Emerald Greene Parsons - Publisher

Amendment #1 – Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice

This amendment would make the right of consumers to own or lease solar equipment on their properties to generate electricity for their own use, a constitutional right. It would also enshrine in the state constitution the ability of state and local governments to protect consumers’ rights and ensure that consumers who choose not to install solar power equipment are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access of those who do.

This amendment is Utility Company backed.

Florida is one of five states that do not allow a property owner to have a third-party installer put solar panels on their roof and sell the power back to them.  A yes vote will leave that ban in place.  It gives utility companies the right to impose new fees on all solar customers to compensate for the loss of revenue when solar customers don't buy their power. Amendment 1 would potentially give utility companies a constitutional argument to eventually charge solar customers more, or change net metering policies.

A no vote means that it would guarantee Floridians’ right to use and produce solar energy; a measure that would promote solar energy in Florida and treats all consumers fairly, ensuring that those who don’t use solar don’t have to subsidize those who do. Floridians would have the right to own or lease solar-power equipment, on their property, to generate electricity for their own use.

MY RULING: Vote NO on Amendment #1

Amendment #2 - Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions

This amendment would permit individuals who suffer from debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana for medical purposes, as determined by a licensed physician. The measure would also permit caregivers to assist individuals with the use of marijuana if the latter couldn’t do it on their own. It would not legalize the use, possession, sale or production of non-medical marijuana.

Voting “Yes,” supports legalizing medical marijuana for individuals with certain debilitating diseases or conditions, as determined  (big key factor) by a licensed state physician.

Voting “No,” will oppose the proposal for legalization of medical marijuana and keep the state's current medical marijuana program “Charlotte’s Web” in place.

Many voters oppose the amendment due to some of the loopholes which may allow minors to get ahold of marijuana and many others to use the marijuana for recreational use, with much easier access.

Amendment 2 doesn’t have a local option to allow communities to decide where or how many pot shops they want.  It places no restrictions on the location of pot shops.  It is anticipated that we will see pot shops spring up in our shopping centers and on street corners.  Florida’s department of health says Amendment 2 will cram nearly 2,000 pot shops into Florida.

Also, non-medically trained professionals will be staffing these pot shops. At a reputable pharmacy, your medicine is handled by a licensed Florida pharmacist. However, in a pot shop no such medical training is necessary because pot isn’t medicine.

This amendment could set up thousands of medical dispensaries around Florida. Amendment 2 is very broad and promises to basically open up a floodgate of marijuana clinics and growers. And we all know that if you want to get your hands on a medical marijuana card it will be as easy as walking into a store. One person even said, “It’ll be like California, like in Venice Beach, where girls in bikinis stand outside clinics with signs inviting anyone and everyone in so you can obtain a prescription from a doctor and then go next door to the marijuana dispensary.”

You really think medical marijuana will not be abused in Florida? “Pill-mills” should teach us all that answer!

There’s no question, Amendment 2 will lead to more marijuana use; it will lead to people driving under the influence; it will bombard the law enforcement with technicalities of who is legal and who is not; it will open the floodgates to pot-candy; it will make us a joke; just like Colorado has become.

MY RULING: Vote NO on Amendment #2

Amendment 3 - Tax Exemption for Totally and Permanently Disabled First Responders

This amendment seeks to give property tax relief on the homesteads of first responders such as police and firefighters, provided the individuals are totally and permanently disabled as a consequence of injuries received in the line of duty. If approved, the exemption would take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

The amendment defines a first responder as a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, firefighter, an emergency medical technician (EMS) or paramedic who is “totally and permanently disabled as a result of an injury sustained in the line of duty.” The injury has to render the first responder completely and permanently disabled and that injury must be sustained in the line of duty. A first responder with a chronic condition or disease that is not an injury may qualify only if it was caused in the line of duty alone. Qualifying persons would not pay property taxes on their home.

In 2012, voters approved a similar proposal for the widowed spouses of military veterans and first responders.

The opponents of this amendment say this tax exemption separates taxpayers based only on their occupation and all taxpayers should be treated objectively. Opponents also state that when some do not pay taxes the burden shifts to the rest of Florida’s taxpayers.

While I am usually against tax breaks for some and not all; and I am usually not one that thinks some should pay more taxes than others … I personally agree with this amendment. I hold the upmost respect for our first responders and appreciate the fact that they put themselves in harm’s way every day, to protect people they don’t even know.  While we “run away” from danger, they “run towards” danger.  If a first responder is “totally and permanently disabled as a result of an injury sustained in the line of duty” while “running towards” that danger, I personally feel that not paying property taxes on their home, once a year, is a small drop in a big bucket.

MY RULING: Vote YES on Amendment #3

Amendment 5 - Homestead Tax Exemption for Certain Seniors, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination of Just Value

This amendment proposes giving an additional homestead tax exemption to low-income, long-term senior residents whose properties have a just value of more than $250,000. Under current law, homeowners who are 65 or older and whose annual income doesn’t exceed $20,000 annually and whose home values are less than $250,000, currently qualify for the exemption.

What Amendment 5 would do is make it so that even if a property’s value rises above $250,000, the individuals will still qualify for the exemption, so long as they meet the other requirements.

The opposition says it would decrease property tax revenue needed to provide quality education and it would unfairly give lower tax rates to certain citizens based solely on age.

However, the supporters of Amendment 5 (myself included) say if the value of the home goes up, so do the assessed taxes; this could be catastrophic to our seniors on a fixed income. The government has all but taken away social security, as it is.  We expect our seniors to barely survive on the small monthly check they receive, plus pay for all medications, utilities and food.

We, as Americans and Christians, should help take care of our elderly.  (And always remember… you too, will one day be in that same age group!)

MY RULING: Vote YES on Amendment #5

(Both #3 and #5 are aimed at worthy targets. Yes, this represents a loss of revenue for the state, but it’s the right thing to do for these groups of people.)

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