Constitutional Amendments

 Florida has five ways in which an amendment may be proposed to our State’s Constitution.  Regardless of how they are proposed, all amendments must be voted upon and passed with a minimum of 60% of the vote.  The first, and most common method is the passage of a joint resolution by a 3/5 majority of each chamber.  The second method is through the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC), whose members are appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General. The CRC meets every twenty years to review the Constitution and to suggest proposals, if any.  They are next scheduled to meet in 2017-2018.  The third method is through citizens’ initiative.  A measure is placed on the ballot when proposers have collected, and the State has verified, the signatures of 8% of the number of voters in the most recent presidential election.  For 2014, 683,149 signatures were needed to place an amendment on the ballot. This year all three amendments were placed on the ballot by either citizens’ initiative or by a joint resolution of the Florida Legislature.Fourthly, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission can place an amendment on the ballot.  This Commission meets every ten years, and is next scheduled to convene in 2017-18.  The final, and most unlikely method, is that citizens may call for a Constitutional Convention.  This method would require a voter referendum as to whether a convention should be called.  The number of petitions required to place the referendum on the ballot is 15% of the previous presidential election voters.This election has three proposed amendments.  Analysis of Amendments 2 and 3 follow.Amendment 2, Medical Marijuana

This is another citizens’ initiative.  Initiated by People United for Medical Marijuana and led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, the group has raised $7 million and spent $5.9 million as of October 10th.  The amendment would legalize the use of marijuana for medically debilitating conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV, AIDS, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease “or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

In the event of passage, the amendment will not: (1)  “affect laws relating to non-medical use, possession, production or sale of marijuana”; (2) authorize “the use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a qualifying patient”; (3) allow for the “operation of a motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft while under the influence of marijuana”; (4) require accommodations for medical marijuana use “in any place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place”; (5)  require “any health insurance provider or any government agency or authority to reimburse any person for expenses related to the medical use of marijuana”; and (6) require “the violation of federal law or purports to give immunity under federal law.”

A YES vote would (1) provide for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes by individuals under the approved circumstances; (2) maintain the prohibition on recreational uses; and (3) require the Florida Department of Health to regulate medical marijuana.

A NO vote would (1) keep existing prohibitions on any use of marijuana in place; and (2) continue to allow law enforcement to impose current state and federal laws.

Amendment 3, Judicial Appointments

This amendment was proposed by the Florida Legislature and passed with the required 3/5’s majority in both chambers.  This measure is technical in nature but may have political ramifications.  The proposal continues to allow the Governor to fill judicial vacancies in the Supreme Court or a District Court of Appeal by appointing a justice or judge from among at least three, but not more than six, candidates selected by the judicial nominating commission. However, the measure would also allow the Governor to “prospectively” fill a vacancy, meaning that the Governor would not need to wait until a judge completes his or her term to pick a successor in situations where a judge (1) reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70; (2) fails to qualify for a retention election; or (3) fails to be retained through election.

A YES vote would (1) enable an outgoing, lame duck Governor to make appointments to the Supreme Court and District Court of Appeals with impunity; (2) would shorten the term of any vacancy in those courts; and (3) invalidate previous court interpretation as to who has the authority to appoint justices or judges in those circumstances.

A NO vote would (1) continue to allow the incoming Governor to appoint justices and judges and (2) possibly extend the vacancy period to up to one hundred twenty days.

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