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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Voters, beware tricky titles

You'll see on today's page a list of candidates The Tampa Tribune's editorial board is endorsing. We offer the list as a guide and urge readers to research the candidates and issues for themselves. For most voters the biggest challenge this year will be the 11 proposed amendments to the state constitution. You can't expect to read them once and comprehend them. Many voters who try to wade into the sea of small print and convoluted sentences for the first time on Election Day will quickly give up. If they don't skip the amendments altogether, they'll likely make decisions based on the titles. Unfortunately, you can't depend on a title to always point you in the general direction of what the amendment means. In fact, some of the titles seem designed to mislead.
We think the titles are so bad they deserve a critique of their own. You can see what we recommend in "our ballot choices," and you can find the full editorials on our website. What follows is our attempt to put you in the ballpark of voting the way you want. Amendment 1 is called "Health care services." It's not really about care. It's more of an attempt to prohibit any requirement to buy health insurance, either under Obamacare or a possible state plan. A better title would be, "No insurance mandate." Amendment 2 is titled accurately enough: "Veterans disabled due to combat injury; homestead property tax discount." It expands an existing discount to veterans who didn't live in Florida when they joined the military. Amendment 3, "State government revenue limitation," gives the impression it would impose a limit for the first time. A better title would be, "Basing state revenue cap on inflation and population instead of income." Amendment 4: "Property tax limitations; property value decline; reduction for nonhomestead assessment increases; delay of scheduled repeal." This amendment does too many things to be easily headlined. If the title pointed out that non-homestead property includes commercial property and vacation homes, it would be more helpful. Amendment 5 is called simply "State courts." We would call it, "Giving the Legislature more control over the courts." Amendment 6 is called "Prohibition on public funding of abortion; construction of abortion rights." The first part is exactly what it says. The second part says nothing. We would retitle the second half, "Constitution's right of privacy does not apply to abortions." Amendment 8 is called "Religious freedom." It is the most misleading of the 11. We would call it "Allowing state money to go to churches and sects." Amendment 9 is "Homestead property tax exemption for surviving spouse of military veteran or first responder." It would do just what it says it would do. Amendment 10 is called "Tangible personal property tax exemption." The issue here is business equipment, not your household goods. Most small businesses are already exempt. A better title would be "A property tax break for larger businesses." Amendment 11 has a title that's accurate enough: "Additional homestead exemption; low income seniors who maintain long-term residency on property; equal to accessed value." Amendment 12 is titled "Appointment of student body president to Board of Governors of the state university system." A voter might think no student body president is now on the board. A better title would be "Changing how student body president is selected to serve on the Board of Governors." Another change we would like to see, in addition to clearer titles, is a requirement that the ballot language include the sponsor of the proposal. In some years an amendment might be put on the ballot by citizen petition. Voters should know that this year the sponsor of all the amendments is the Florida Legislature.
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