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Columbia County Observer

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Amendments to Florida's Constitution: Tuesday's Big Winners

Voters said yes to 11 of 12 Constitutional Amendments on the ballot Tuesday — dramatic measures ranging from prohibiting offshore oil and gas drilling to restoring voting rights for certain felons who have done their time and phasing out the troubled industry of greyhound racing.

In addition, voters – rather than state lawmakers – will decide whether to authorize casino gambling, under another Amendment approved Tuesday.

Only Amendment 1, which would increase certain homestead exemptions, appeared to be below the threshold to pass – meaning at least 60 percent of voters saying yes. That’s based on unofficial results from the Florida Division of Elections, with the vast majority of precincts reporting statewide.

The Amendments created drama for months in the state capital – with lawsuits filed and Florida Supreme Court decisions relating to keeping or ditching the proposed Constitutional Amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Only one Amendment – an education-related measure labeled as Amendment 8– was removed from the ballot, but the other 12 remained.

And in the end, voters went to polls and approved the measures, generally by wide margins, showcasing concerns about issues near and dear to Floridians, from the shorelines of the state and its beaches and waters.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy helped lead the campaign to educate voters on Amendment 9, which will enshrine an offshore oil drilling ban into the state Constitution. The measure would prohibit drilling in waters that belong to the state – up to nine miles off Florida’s Gulf coast and three miles out into the Atlantic.

“Floridians just protected our coastline from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling. This is great news for coastal communities and the clean, tourist-friendly beaches we depend on,” said Sarah Gledhill, Florida field campaigner at the Center. “By passing Amendment 9, Floridians are sending a loud message to President Trump that we oppose his reckless plan to expand offshore drilling.”

Amendment 9 also bans the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public workplaces.

The greyhound racing Amendment highlighted the state investigations that found cruelty, including racing dog injuries and deaths.  Dogs have tested positive for cocaine and are sometimes given steroids. They are stacked in cages for most of the time except when racing.

Advocacy groups weighed on other Amendment victories Tuesday.

The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) praised citizens for approving Amendment 10, which included a key element – setting in stone that certain county officials must be elected, and a county could not abolish the offices of sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and clerk of the circuit court.

“Sheriffs, and the other constitutional officers, had faith voters would make the correct choice by protecting their right to vote. Together, we have made history. Florida will now have elected and independent constitutional officers in all 67 counties. "This is a great day for transparency and accountability,”  FSA President Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter said in a statement.

Amendment 6, labeled by advocates as “Marsy’s Law,” based on a woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983, was approved as well.

“The voters of the Sunshine State stood up strong for crime victims today, making a bold statement that the time is now for equal rights for crime victims in Florida’s Constitution,” said Greg Ungru, Marsy’s Law for Florida State Director. “

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune.

This piece appeared in the Florida Phoenix and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

Graphic and layout by the Observer

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