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Cover Story

The Amendments

Our guide to the confusing mess of constitutional amendments appearing on your ballot

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

What it says: Prohibits the use of public funds for abortion services or for health insurance policies that provide for abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest or where the mother's life is at stake.

What proponents say: The amendment strengthens state law by removing "right to abortion" caveats in state law that prevent pro-life legislation from passing. Specifically, the amendment will make it easier to push through stronger parental consent laws for minors seeking abortions.

What opponents say: The amendment muddies the waters by allowing Florida politicians to inject themselves into private decisions best handled between a woman and her health care provider. Also, it would deny coverage to public employees whose insurance policies presently cover abortion services.

What we say: For a legislature so bent on presenting itself as tuned into the economic woes of its constituency, the conservatives in Tallahassee have a lot of gall trying to write this horrific overreach into the state Constitution. As MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out, there is no divining point on the whole "rape or incest" issue – does a doctor decide? A cop? A judge? How long will that take? – meaning that the red herring presented here (intended to soften the blow) is truly insincere. This is culture-war crassness played out in an election as a means of driving voter turnout.

Amendment 8
Religious freedom

What it says: A vote yes on this amendment deletes a provision in the state Constitution that prohibits the state from funding churches, religious schools and other non-secular organizations; it replaces it with language that would make it so the state may not deny religious organizations funding just because they are religious.

What proponents say: They say that the current law that prohibits the government from funding religious organizations is discriminatory and that it prevents religious organizations from obtaining public funding for charitable work.

What opponents say: This amendment is not about religious freedom at all. Rather, it's a blatant attempt to prey upon voters' ignorance of the state's longstanding "no aid" rule, and if passed, it could force the government to use taxpayer dollars to fund religious schools and programs that currently aren't eligible for government funding due to the religious nature of their activities.

What we say: There's no doubt that this amendment is misleading. It was introduced as Amendment 7 and was struck from the ballot by the courts, which said its language made it seem as if it was necessary to pass this amendment to bring state law in line with the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom. In fact, Amendment 7 – which was quickly rewritten and then introduced to the ballot again as Amendment 8 – does no such thing. Rather, it would make it illegal for the state to deny funding to programs that exist to promote a religious point of view.
While secular activities performed by religious organizations can currently apply for public funding from government entities, any programs that exist to further a religious agenda may not. Amendment 8 would not only make it legal for them to obtain such monies – it would make it practically illegal for the government to turn them down.
This amendment would open the floodgates for the government funding of churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious organizations, but most importantly, it would open the door to the funding of religious schools via voucher programs and public aid that they aren't currently eligible for. A vote for Amendment 8 undermines the longstanding separation of church and state in Florida, and it has the potential to undermine our public-education system, as well.

Amendment 9
Homestead property tax exemption for surviving spouse of military veteran or first responder

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