Have a voice, make a choice: Ballot breakdown 2014

On Nov. 4, Florida will vote on three constitutional amendments in the general election, one of which is the controversial amendment to legalize marijuana. It is important to to not only exercise your right to vote, but also to understand the platforms of the constitutional amendments. Each measure needs 60 percent voter approval in order to pass. Since some amendments can be lengthy and difficult to understand, here is a breakdown of what is on the ballot:


Amendment 1: Water & Land Conservation


“Water and Land Conservation — Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.”


What it means:


Florida is a well-known destination for people all over the world causing millions to visit it each year. Our eco-system is one of the most unique in the country. In order to maintain and preserve these areas, it costs millions of dollars each year. Some people are concerned with the amount of allotted funds for the conservation project and fear it is not consistent enough. Amendment 1 would ensure that funding would be available for these environmentally sensitive areas for the next 20 years.

However, this would not set aside a specific amount of money. Instead, it would set aside 33 percent of revenue from document stamps on real estate every year.


Amendment 2: Medical Marijuana


“Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.”


What it means:


This amendment would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for pain and chronic conditions. However, possession of marijuana for recreational use would still be against federal law.


Amendment 3: Judicial Vacancies & Appointments


“Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution authorizing the Governor to prospectively fill a vacancy in a judicial office to which election for retention applies that results from a justice’s or judge’s reaching the mandatory retirement age, failure to qualify for a retention election, or failure to be retained through election. Under current law, the Governor may not act to fill such vacancies until after the current justice or judge completes his or her term.”


What it means:


Florida judges look over legal matters that affect us everyday. Most of the time, a judge is elected to his or her seat. In some cases, an opening can be filled by a governor when there is an immediate opening. Amendment 3 would change which governor would have the ability to appoint replacements for Florida Supreme Court judges who are retiring. This would allow the governor leaving office to appoint the judge rather than leaving it to the newly elected governor to appoint.

If you are not registered to vote in Sarasota, but are registered elsewhere in Florida, contact your supervisor of elections. They are able to send you an absentee ballot upon request. In order for your vote to count, they must receive it either before or on Nov. 4 by 7:00 P.M.  So go out there and fulfill your civil duties. Every vote counts.

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