The people have spoken and in record numbers.
Whatever you think of President Donald Trump, we can’t argue that his volatile persona brought out the vote. It worked both ways — with Republican turnout for and Democrat turnout against him.
That may be truer in Florida than most other states. Trump literally carried Ron DeSantis over the line. And Rick Scott, while not sitting in Trump’s lap like DeSantis, did benefit from Trump’s favor.
That 11 of the 12 constitutional amendments passed came as something of a surprise. Some thoughts:
• The weirdest vote from where we sit is the failure of Amendment 1. Voters were asked to decide a dozen constitutional amendments, most bundled in the most misleading manner. Most carried some kind of perk for a variety of disconnected interest groups: animal lovers, first responders, vapers, fast dogs and constitutional officers. Amendment 1 expanded homestead exemptions on an estimated 60 percent of state homeowners. The average homeowner would save $300 a year. Cities, counties and various special taxing districts were wringing their hands over estimates the amendment would suck $753 million from local budgets in the first year. We’re guessing the citizenry heard their representatives’ fears and actually understand what local government does.
• Amendment 2 guaranteed a permanent 10 percent cap on commercial property tax assessments and was supported by small businesses and the Florida Association of Realtors.
• Amendment 3 gave voters the call, rather than the Legislature, when it comes to new casino gambling. The Seminole Tribe and Disney pumped $40 million into it because it would make it harder to expand gambling, which both had a keen interest in seeing come to fruition.
• Amendment 4 gave felons the right to voter after their sentences were served. That will impact 1.5 million potential voters in the state.
• Amendment 5 requires two-thirds of the House and Senate to pass a tax increase. It makes it almost impossible for the Legislature to increase taxes, but not cities and counties. And both will be forced to take up the slack — while the lawmakers can bellow “no new taxes” during campaigns, and local governments take the hit.
• Amendment 9 ostensibly kills vaping in public places and offshore drilling off our coasts. The drilling ban is meaningless, because it applies only to state waters out to 3 miles. It does nothing to hinder federal approval of oil and gas rigs farther out.
• Amendment 10 requires all 67 counties to elect constitutional officers. Prior to this, the question was left up to the individual counties, precisely where it belongs — another hit on home rule. It also requires the state to have a Department of Veterans Affairs — which it already does. Welcome to Tallahassee.
• Amendment 12 prohibits elected officials from using their positions for financial gain.
• Amendment 13 ends greyhound racing in the state.
• Finally, in a very real way, Floridians got what they paid for in these elections. The state hands out campaign funds to candidates, matching dollar-for-dollar campaign contributions of $250 or less. DeSantis set a new record, eclipsing Charlie Crist in 2014, by hauling in $2.6 million in taxpayer dollars for his campaign. Gillum’s total was $2.3 million. Overall, we financed the top 10 campaigns with just shy of $9 million this year. That was up from $4.3 million in 2104.
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- The Ocala Star-Banner