Wednesday, 25 November 2020

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Auntie Najwa's Guide To Florida Amendments

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Salaam Dearies,  
 
What do Floridians do when their poorly paid part-time legislature refuses to tackle issues near and dear to their hearts? What do we do when corporate donors have access and we don’t? There is one mechanism at our disposal: amending the Florida Constitution.  
 
Sure, it sounds like the nuclear option. After all, a constitution is a basic founding document that shouldn’t have to be changed if politicians refuse to limit class sizes, ease the suffering of barn animals, restrict indoor smoking or cap their own legislative terms. But what choice to Floridians have?  The private school lobby pays well to defund public schools, so class size limitations that have to be funded would certainly not have been on their agenda. The powers that be don’t always follow the will of the people when it messes with the power structure, and Constitutional Amendments are the only weapon we have.  That’s why they are now on the chopping block, too. In a proposed amendment – amendment four, which gets a resounding NO from this Auntie.  
 
The Florida legislature could deal with Floridians wanting to amend the constitution for things that do not threaten the status quo – but they really learned to fear the voters’ power when we decided to return voting rights to 1 million Floridians, who had paid their debt to society.  So, they just redefined what ‘debt to society’ means and spent millions on lawyers to fight us to make sure that the vote remains suppressed – just like it was meant to be in the South.   
 
So this year, the very people who want to suppress our vote are trying to get us, the voters, to approve an amendment that would make it much more difficult to get constitutional amendments (like the one restoring the vote to returning voters) through. 
 
We already can’t compete with the special interests that can pay for access, and now this?  It’s like telling the sheep to vote for the wolf. Do they really think we’re that … sheepish?  Let’s just build more roadblocks into the only way that citizens have a real say in individual issues that have broad popular support but may not be on the list of things you agreed to do for your corporate donors.  
So, here’s Auntie’s guide to the 2020 Florida Constitutional Amendments – a mechanism to actually make Tallahassee do what Tallahassee won’t do:  
 
Amendment One – NO THANK YOU, I’VE ALREADY GOT ONE 
An amendment that pretends to require citizenship for voting (which Florida law already does) courtesy of a group that wants to pretend that non-citizens engage in voting, which they don’t.  (In some municipalities, this may happen, but certainly not in state-wide or federal elections.) The change to the constitution would change the words “every citizen can vote” to “only citizens can vote.” It’s really purely political and meaningless unless of course to the people who are still promote this tired fake narrative of ‘them there illegals’ voting for Hillary. There is no voter fraud – stop lying about it! VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT ONE 
 
Amendment Two – MASHALLAH, IT’S ABOUT TIME!! 
An amendment that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2026. The raise would be by $1 a year starting in September 2021. Currently, the minimum wage is $8.56 – clearly just enough to starve or be forced to apply for food stamps, which shifts the burden of ensuring employee survival from business to the taxpayer.  In my opinion, surviving on $15/hr is already a stretch. and minimum wage employers are automating jobs away like crazy. But I’m still going to VOTE YES ON AMENDMENT TWO – because it’s better than nothing.  
 
Amendment Three – Hmmmm 
An amendment that seems like it would open party primaries to all voters, meaning independents (a growing group of voters) actually get to participate in selecting candidates.  Experts, however, warn that this is not actually what this amendment does. I think this needs much more thought. Seemingly, this new amendment is worded in a way that we might end up having to choose between candidates of the same party. It would also hurt the chances of minority candidates. NICE TRY … AND THAT’S A NO FROM AUNTIE.  
 
Amendment Four – ABSOLUTELY NOT 
This amendment would make the difficult constitutional amendment process even more difficult and allow monied interests to fight even harder when their campaign contributions to their favorite politicians are not enough.  The whole thing is disguised as an effort to ‘Keep the Constitution Clean’ (like that’s actually important) – sponsored by the same people who like to invoke cleanliness and ‘law and order’ when they want to restrict our ability to effectively participate in the political process. Yes, cleanliness is next to godliness, but that applies to my loo, not to democracy.  VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT FOUR. 
 
Amendment Five – NOT A FAN … BUT SEE FOR YOURSELVES 
This amendment would give additional tax relief in the form of extending time for accrued “Save our Homes” benefits to a new home for purposes of tax assessment. It would help homeowners of course but also decrease money for schools and other things funded from property taxes. NO RECOMMENDATION. 
 
Amendment Six – I GUESS …  
This amendment would extend a property tax discount now available for 65+ year old veterans to their surviving spouses … but only if they do not remarry or by another home.  So, the late husband was a veteran who qualified for the discount. To me, it’s only logical that his widow – a presumably older woman dealing with the loss of her husband - should not suddenly see her taxes rise. But why lose the benefit if she remarries?  It’s not like she went through any less loss and financial hardship.  Actually, a woman that age should get an award for taking on another husband!  I say double her tax discount!! Given that this amendment was approved by the legislature, it is also strange that it had to be an amendment at all. Really, people, why do you run for office??  NO RECOMMENDATION.  
 
The sheer number of amendments shows that Floridians are having a hard time getting their legislators to listen to them.  And there is a structural reason for that: Florida – a state with one of the biggest economies in the U.S. – still has a PART TIME LEGISLATURE who are being paid a mere pittance.  Most people who are passionate about change simply cannot afford to serve because they cannot feed their families on what a FL lawmaker earns.   
 
So our legislature is mostly made up of people who hold second jobs or the rich and powerful - wealthy land owners with development and agricultural interest, who don’t need a salary to survive because they know that they can do just fine as long as they keep control.  Do they really care about the lives of minimum wage workers who have to rent apartments in Miami?  My favorite amendment therefore – opening the legislature up to more Floridians by paying legislators a decent salary – is not on the ballot. Not this year, anyway … but there’s always the next election.  
 
I have to have a cup of tea now … till next time Dearies,  Your Auntie  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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