Aug. 24–VENICE — Former state Sen. Lisa Carlton, a member of the statewide Constitutional Revision Commission, gave members of the South County Tiger Bay Club a primer on the 13 proposed constitutional amendments Friday afternoon — though much of the discussion centered on Amendments 8 and 9, which deal with public schools and a ban of offshore oil drilling.
The first five amendments, Carlton noted, were placed there by either public petition or the state Legislature, while the 28-member commission was responsible for Amendments 6 to 13, which were crafted in a process that winnowed down 2,000 ideas to about 100, some of which were bundled to craft the eight amendments.
Carlton stressed that voters need to read the bundled amendments carefully and, if they have an issue with a portion of an amendment, they shouldn’t hesitate to vote against the entire amendment.
“I think it’s important that if you’re opposed to something in the initiative, you vote no,” Carlton said.
All amendments must be approved by at least 60 percent of the voters in the November general election to pass.
Amendment 8, which would establish a two-term limit for school board members, has also come under fire because it would give the Legislature power to create charter schools.
Last month, the Sarasota County School Board adopted a resolution opposing that amendment, which is also being challenged in court by the League of Women Voters because of its ballot language.
Carlton noted that the state Supreme Court is expected to hear challenges to all of the proposed constitutional amendments on Wednesday.
Carlton explained both sides of that controversial bill, noting that while there is a healthy charter school community in Sarasota County, other school districts are thwarting the concept.
“Other areas of the state are saying, ‘Hey, we look at these charter schools like they have in Sarasota County for instance, and we can’t have any here because our school board won’t approve any, they won’t consider them, and they vote them down every time,'” Carlton said. “This part of this amendment comes out of the little bit of a frustration from those parts of the state that don’t have access and don’t see that their charter school system is as healthy as it could be.”
“A lot of people don’t like it because they think it’s usurping the local school board control,” she added. “I can see both sides of the issue and there are legitimate issues on both sides.”
Carlton noted that, if the amendment were to be approved by voters, there would “all sorts of implementing laws that would have to be enacted.”
“What the proponents are saying is we want the teeth of the law to be in the constitution,” she added. “Once it’s in the constitution, most likely it’s going to be in there for a while.”
Carlton also addressed Amendment 9, which couples the prohibition of offshore gas and oil drilling with a prohibition of vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces.
Carlton said that, while she opposes offshore drilling, the recent archeological site discovered offshore near Manasota Key is a “great example here that it’s not only the oil and the effects on the environment, but we have an archaeological site that is probably one of a kind, and you have to protect that,” Carlton said.
An overwhelming vote on that amendment, she added, also sends a strong message to the federal government about Florida’s preferences on offshore drilling in federal waters.
“Obviously those offshore areas that Florida cannot control and are in the control of other entities, it sends a very strong message, how we feel about our shores,” Carlton said.
Carlton characterized the vaping ban as an update to the 2002 public ban on cigarette smoking in public workplaces.
Carlton also discussed Amendment 10, which would require that county constitutional officers — including tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, clerk of court and sheriff — be elected and not appointed.
That amendment also recognizes both a state security office and state department of veterans affairs in the constitution.
Two stand-alone amendments of note include Amendment 12, which bars public or elected officials from lobbying during their terms and for six years following their service, and Amendment 13, which would end commercial dog racing by 2020, though allow card rooms and pari mutuel wagering and card rooms to continue at those existing facilities.
Amendment 13 was also challenged in the court system — with a decision expected by the state Supreme Court.
Eleven of the 17 dog tracks currently operating in the United States are in Florida, including Derby Lane in Pinellas County and the Sarasota Kennel Club.
“This is probably our only opportunity to end greyhound racing in this state,” Carlton said. “And we end it in a way that allows those facilities to continue their card rooms.
“It’s up to you; a lot of people have very strong feelings on this, a lot of people, pros and cons on both sides.”
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