Florida Senate passes sweeping ethics law but questions remain

Daniel B. Krassner, Executive Director of Integrity Florida

Daniel B. Krassner, Executive Director of Integrity Florida stated in an email, “Senate President Don Gaetz, House Speaker Will Weatherford, Senate Ethics and Election Committee Chairman Jack Latvala and House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee Chairman Jim Boyd are all to be commended for their constructive, bipartisan pursuit of ethics reform. Floridians have not seen our state leaders prioritize and pass comprehensive ethics reform since the implementation of the 1976 Sunshine Amendment.”

However, former Florida Commission on Ethics Executive Director Phil Claypool identified areas of concern about Senate Bill 2, the ethics reform bill just passed 40-0 by the Florida Senate.  Claypool shared the things good about the bill as well as his concerns in a memo to Integrity Florida.  Claypool’s analysis includes these not-so-goods:

[Blind Trusts]

For the first time in Florida, the bill would provide for “blind trusts,” an ethics concept from the federal government and many other states that the Ethics Commission has recommended for several years. In these other jurisdictions, this allows a public official to create a trust for his or her assets, to hand off responsibility for investing those assets to a trustee, and then to “blind” the official to what he or she owns by prohibiting the trustee from telling what is owned or sold. If an official doesn’t know what he or she owns, then the official should not be influenced in his or her public decisions by considering personal gain or loss.

Unfortunately, the bill as currently written takes the Ethics Commission’s recommendations regarding blind trusts and eliminates most of the parts that would protect the public. In effect, the proposal stands the concept of a “blind trust” on its head. Instead of protecting the public from conflicts of interest that a public official may have through “blinding” the official to what he or she owns, the proposed law would allow officials to use their positions for private gain while “blinding” the public to what’s going on.

[Financial Disclosure; Fines; Amendments; Investigations]

The bill requires the Commission to treat an amended disclosure form as if it were the original, so long as the form is filed by Sept. 1st. The intent is to allow an official to file an incorrect disclosure, be notified of the error when a citizen has investigated and files a complaint, and then correct the filing without consequence if he or she can by Sept. 1st.

Someone is being protected here! And it isn’t the public. Shouldn’t officials take personal responsibility for their actions? Already, officials can amend their forms at any time to fix mistakes. Shouldn’t they treat financial disclosure – which they file under oath and make only because they hold the public trust – as seriously as their income tax returns?

[Ethics Commission Investigative Authority]

Part of the bill would allow the Ethics Commission to investigate possible violations when referred by one of several different officials, thus not requiring those officials to file a complaint with the Commission (and allege that they believe there has been a violation) if they believe a situation should be investigated.

This has been one of the Commission’s recommendations and would be a positive step forward, although still a step short of allowing the Commission to initiate investigations on its own. However, the bill also would limit the Commission’s jurisdiction to investigate if the complaint or referral is filed within 30 days of an election against a candidate. This extends the 5-day limitation that is in the current law to 30 days.

This appears to take a step backward – why do public officials need even greater protection?

[Voting Conflicts of Interest]

This is a very technical subject, one that I spent hours lecturing on at various seminars. Currently, State-level officers (as opposed to local government officials) can vote on measures in which they have a conflict of interest, but are required to disclose the conflict within 15 days of the vote (if an elected official), or prior to the vote (if an appointed official). A conflict is created when the measure under consideration would inure to the special private gain or loss of the official, of a principal by whom the official is retained, or of a relative or business partner of the official.

The bill would prohibit State-level officers from voting on a measure that would inure to their special private gain or loss. That is a change in the law. They still would be allowed to vote on matters benefiting their principals, relatives, and business partners but would have to disclose the conflict within 15 days.

It also would amend the law on when State and local officials have a conflict requiring them to abstain and/or disclose the conflict, by defining “special private gain or loss.”

[Gifts from PC’s and CCE’s]

This section creates an entirely new prohibition against some gifts being given to public officials and their families by Political Committees and Committees of Continuous Existence. But not all gifts – just the ones that are “not primarily related to contributions, expenditures, or other political activities” under Ch. 106.

Without seeing any examples of what is intended or without having a specific definition, it is difficult to determine what would be “primarily related to” contributions, expenditures, or other political activities, and what would not. It may be that a definition would make this clearer.

Click here to read the full Phil Claypool Memo to Integrity Florida – Ethics Reform Bill Analysis

US Supreme Court Voting Rights Case and its impact on Florida

The US Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder beginning today. The issue according to the SCOTUS Blog is, “Whether Congress’ decision in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.”

The ruling on this case will impact as many as five Florida Counties. According to Larry Kahn of KeysNet.com, “Section 5 covers Monroe and four other Florida counties, as well as some local jurisdictions in California, North Carolina, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York and South Dakota. It also covers all of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Alaska, Arizona and Virginia.”

Kahn reports, “Last year, then-Monroe County Elections Supervisor Harry Sawyer battled Gov. Rick Scott on the national stage over how many early-voting days should be allowed in the November election. Scott ultimately won — eight days instead of Sawyer’s preferred 14 — but that battle and more will be heard today by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Kahn notes, “‘Last year we got an umbrella from Section 5 because it helped Mr. Sawyer fight and the voters were heard from,’ said Elections Supervisor Joyce Griffin. ‘If we weren’t under Section 5, they wouldn’t have been heard from’.”

Mr. Sawyer wanted to use Section 5 of the voting rights act to bypass the governor and state of Florida.

In the column, “Voting Rights at the Supreme Court Today“, Amy Payne reports:

The Voting Rights Act provides “broad and powerful protection against discrimination,”explains Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky, a former Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s take on Section 5, the Voting Rights Act remains in effect to protect all Americans from voter discrimination.

But Section 5 outlived its purpose decades ago—and the federal government is still forcing some voting jurisdictions to justify all of their local rule changes. Von Spakovsky points out:

[Section 5] effectively presumes that all voting-related actions by certain states and jurisdictions are discriminatory and therefore requires that they obtain pre-approval from the federal government for otherwise ordinary and routine actions, such as moving a polling station from a school that is under renovation to another one down the street or drawing new redistricting plans. This is a major and unusual imposition on state sovereignty.

What was originally intended to safeguard individual liberty has become a way for the feds to attack state liberty. For the Department of Justice and many activists, Section 5 merely exists to bully local authorities.

Von Spakovsky says that if Section 5 were struck down, “The only change would be to curb the abuses of federal bureaucrats and check the power and influence of the liberal activist groups that rely on Section 5 to enforce their agendas.”

Watch this Heritage Foundation video to understand what the arguments on Section 5 are:

Stealth gay marriage bill introduced by Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-FL 31)

Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-FL 31)

The Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC) in an email to supporters states, “Deceptively named by its Democrat sponsor [Senator] Eleanor Sobel the ‘Families First’ bill, it at first glance appears to be creating a mere domestic partnership like the others in Florida that would usually include hospital visitation and burial rights. But then after getting deeper into the fine print of the monster 30 page bill, it is discovered that it is brazenly proposing an exact mirror of the every aspect of both Federal and Florida marriage laws allowing for gays and lesbians to enter an arrangement that is both ‘treated as marriage’ and which is not just the ‘substantial equivalent’ of marriage but audaciously attempt’s to be an exact equal to marriage.”

Senator Sobel has a long history with the GLBT community in Florida. The Sun-Herald reported in 2008, “Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl, the first openly-gay member of the Commission, today endorsed Democratic State Senate candidate Eleanor Sobel for the open seat in District 31. Sobel, a member of the Broward School Board, has long been an ally of the GLBT community.”

“I’m excited to accept Commissioner Keechl’s endorsement,” Sobel said. “I have a long history of working with Broward’s gay and lesbian community, and Ken’s support underscores that.” Sobel and Keechl are pictured above (photo courtesy of the Sun-Herald).

Pages 19-21 of the bill SB-196 reads “Any privilege, right, or benefit granted…by marriage… is granted on equivalent terms… to an individual who is or was in a domestic partnership…”

“Therefore SB-196 is not a domestic partnership but an attempt to create a full blown civil union – or an alternative gay marriage. This bill is in direct violation of the Article I, Section 27, the Florida Marriage Protection Act, which was enacted by 62% of Floridians as Amendment 2 on the ballot in 2008 and is therefore blatantly unconstitutional on its face,” notes the FFPC.

The full text of the bill may be read here. There are currently no co-sponsors of the Senate bill.

Representative Mark S. Pafford (D-FL 86)

The companion bill in the Florida House is HB 259. HB 259 was introduced by Representative Mark S. Pafford (D-FL 86) and is co-sponsored by state Representatives Berman (D- FL 90) , Clarke-Reed (D- FL 92),  Cruz (D-FL 62), Danish (D-Fl 63), Edwards (D-FL 98), Fullwood (D-FL 13), Jones (D-FL 14), McGhee (D-FL 117), Moskowitz (D-FL 97), Rader (D-FL 81), Rangel (D-FL 43), Rouson (D-FL 70), Saunders (D-FL 49), Slosberg (D-FL 91), Stark (D-FL 104) and Stewart (D-FL 47).

Efforts are underway to create domestic partnership registries across the state of Florida. Wikipedia lists the following Florida cities with domestic partnership registries:

  • Broward County (Fort Lauderdale): Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Clearwater: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Gainesville: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Key West: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Kissimmee: Employees of the city. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Leon County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Miami Beach: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Miami-Dade County: Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. The cities of Miami and South Miami also grant additional benefits to domestic partners registered in Miami-Dade County.
  • Monroe County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. County employment benefits only.
  • Orange County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Orlando: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Palm Beach County: Residents of the county or at least one partner employed by the county. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Pinellas County: Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Sarasota: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples. City employment benefits only.
  • City of St. Cloud: Employees of the city. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of St. Petersburg: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Tampa: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of Tavares: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • Volusia County: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.
  • City of West Palm Beach: No residency requirement. Both opposite- and same-sex couples.

NOTE: Senator Sobel and all of the Florida House sponsors of HB 259 represent one of these communities.

SB 196, if passed, will then allow those listed on domestic partnership registries to be considered as legally “married” in Florida. The bill would have taken effect on July 1, 2013. However, HB 259 died in Civil Justice Subcommittee.

Failure to Arrest Illegal Alien Senate Intern Demonstrates Obama Administration Cannot Be Trusted to Enforce Immigration Laws

According a report by the Associated Press, political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) repeatedly instructed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents not to arrest an illegal alien sex offender who was employed as an unpaid intern in the office of Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) until after the elections. If confirmed, this overtly political act further demonstrates the shocking politicization of immigration enforcement under the current DHS leadership, charged the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

“The Department of Homeland Security knew that Luis Sanchez Zavaleta was both an illegal alien and a registered sex offender as early as October. Nevertheless, high ranking DHS officials placed electoral politics ahead of public safety and the law, when they instructed ICE agents not to arrest Mr. Sanchez until after the 2012 elections,” said Dan Stein, president of FAIR.

These latest actions of DHS officials ratify charges by career ICE agents that the Obama administration is recklessly disregarding immigration law. In a 2010 press release, the union representing ICE agents accused DHS and ICE leadership of having “abandoned the Agency’s core mission of enforcing United States immigration laws and providing for public safety” and have instead focused their attention on promoting amnesty for illegal aliens.

“This case calls into question the ability of Secretary Janet Napolitano to serve as the nation’s top immigration enforcement official,” stated Stein. “There is now even greater doubt than before about whether Secretary Napolitano and those around her can be trusted to faithfully execute the responsibilities of their offices. Based on the allegations of the ICE officers and strong evidence that DHS leadership interfered in a criminal arrest for political reasons, there must be a full and independent investigation.”

Today’s revelations also underscore the inherent dangers in granting illegal aliens amnesty, whether through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the DREAM Act, or a “comprehensive” immigration reform bill. The fact that it was local law enforcement officers who tipped off the federal government regarding Mr. Sanchez, plus the different treatment juvenile offenders receive, demonstrates that the federal government may in fact have no idea whether an amnesty beneficiary is in fact a criminal.

“It has been clear for years that the Obama administration has been politicizing enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. The case of Mr. Sanchez, and the manner in which it was reportedly dealt with by DHS, raises serious questions about whether our immigration laws are being subverted to serve the political aims of this administration,” Stein concluded.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is a national, nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization of concerned citizens who share a common belief that our nation’s immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest.

Visit FAIR’s website at www.fairus.org.

Is Government Transparency Dead?

Two recent reports question government transparency. It appears the federal government and Florida legislature do not want the people to know how they spend taxpayer dollars. Waste, fraud and abuse are common in governments at every level.

Transparency is key too discovering where the government is wasting money, fraudulently hiding information and abusing taxpayers. The less transparency the more fraud, waste and abuse. President Obama ran on a platform of transparency as did Governor Rick Scott.

Want to find corruption? Then follow the money.

According to Knowledge@Wharton:

While all eyes are turned to the U.S. government’s enormous debt, few have given equal attention to the massive costs and risks embedded in another of the government’s financial functions: its role as lender rather than borrower. One group that has been analyzing the federal government is the the Financial Economists Roundtable (FER), a group of prominent academics that since 1993 has produced an annual statement based on financial analysis of a critical policy issue. In October, the FER published its 2012 statement, Accounting for the Cost of Government Credit Assistance. The FER is administered by the Wharton Financial Institutions Center.

According to FER:

Flaws in the way the government accounts for its loans and credit guarantees understate the costs that taxpayers are bearing with student loans and other credit programs totaling more than $2.5 trillion, plus more than $5 trillion in mortgages backed by the federally owned companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In fact, a proper accounting — like that required of most businesses — would make the government’s budget deficit even larger than the officially reported amount.

“The federal government is the world’s largest financial institution, but policymakers and [government] managers are handicapped by an accounting system that is seriously deficient.  The accounting standards that the government sets for private financial institutions require far greater transparency than the rules that it imposes on itself,” says Deborah J. Lucas, finance professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and author of the FER statement.

Student loans and mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration, among more than 100 other lending programs, contain potential losses that are much more costly than what current accounting suggests, according to the FER.

The Florida legislature created the TransparencyFlorida.gov website. The Florida Legislature created TransparencyFlorida.gov, and made it available to the public in January 2010. Its purpose is “to provide the public with unprecedented access to state government spending information by posting Florida’s operating budget and associated expenditure records online.”

The First Amendment Foundation (FAF), an organization that has been protecting and advancing open government in Florida for over 25 years, and Integrity Florida (IF), a nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog group released a report “Budget Transparency in the Sunshine State December 2012“.

According to FAF and IF, “Corruption does not like sunlight and disclosure is the key to accountability.”

FAF and IF assessed the Transparency 2.0 website developed by Spider Data Services and conclude that Florida would save millions of dollars and would receive an A grade for public access to government spending on future report cards if the site is allowed to publicly launch with a multi-year commitment from the State to invest in site maintenance and real-time data.

Version 2.0 of the TransparencyFlorida.gov website is at risk.

Version 2.0, “[W]ould allow Florida Governor Rick Scott to achieve his goal of Accountability Budgeting. By making each state agency set annual goals for every dollar they spend, those goals could be captured in the Planning module of the Transparency 2.0 site. Performance of state agencies would be easily measured against those goals and the public and policymakers could hold agencies accountable for their outcomes. Transparency 2.0 would allow all state officials and employees to justify the expenditure of Floridians’ tax dollars.”

FAF and IF strongly recommend that the Transparency 2.0 website be allowed to launch publicly to provide a globally competitive level of budget transparency and public access to information.

Without these watchdog groups government transparency would be dead. Only via transparency can government be held accountable and the people demand fraud, waste and abuse be stopped.

VIDEO: Florida Supreme Court Steals Family’s Property

American’s for Prosperity – Florida released the second video in their You Be the Judge project. It tells the story of the Koontzs, a central Florida family that has been fighting for their property rights for more than 18 years!

In 2011, the Florida Supreme Court invalidated a number of lower court decisions that stated the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) had effectively stolen private property from the Koontz’s.  The family was awarded $367,000 in damages but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling saying that it could cause government regulation to cost too much.

The video focuses on the 2011 case of SJRWMD v Koontz in which the court invalidated a number of lower court decisions that stated the St. Johns River Water Management District had effectively stolen private property from the Koontz’s.

This is another example of the Florida Supreme Courts willingness to base their decision on the potential policy effects rather than on core fundamental rights. The Courts bias for a heavy-handed government won out against the rights of a private citizen.

The judiciary must remain independent and impartial, but in order for that to happen citizens must be knowledgeable about the Courts decisions and voice their concerns when the court oversteps their authority.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Koontz case. For more information visit www.YouBeTheJudgeFL.com.


US Supreme Court accepts another PLF property rights case!

Commentary: SCOTUS to Hear Appeal of Florida Supreme Court’s Bad Call

Officers of the Court Using Government Computers for Political Gain

There is growing evidence that State Attorneys and Judges in Florida are using government computers for personal or political gain.

Florida has “Sunshine Laws”. According to the Florida Attorney General’s Government Under the Sunshine website:

Florida began its tradition of openness back in 1909 with the passage of Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes or the ‘Public Records Law’. Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967. These statutes establish a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities.”

According to the Attorney General, “The definition of what constitutes ‘public records’ has come to include not just traditional written documents such as papers, maps and books, but also tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings and records stored in computers.” Chapter 286 of the Florida Statues gives the public basic rights to access to public records.

Recently public records requests have exposed Judges and State Attorneys using government computers for personal or political gain.

The Tampa Bay Times in an August 22, 2012 column on The Buzz reports, “State Attorney Robert ‘Skip’’ Jarvis of Live Oak [FL] has reached an agreement that will allow him to avoid prosecution for using law enforcement databases to research his political opponents and others.”

The Tampa Bay Times column notes, “The investigation of Jarvis began earlier this year when San Fillipo, a former assistant for Jarvis, complained to FDLE that his former boss had improperly researched state and federal records concerning his wife. Details of the investigation were included in a report King submitted to the governor’s office. FDLE agents determined that Jarvis had also conducted other searches that appeared to be improper, including a search of records relating to the wife of his Republican opponent.”

On April 12, 2012 Mr. Joel Chandler, a citizen, filed a public records request involving State Attorney Edward Brodsky, who serves as Assistant State Attorney in Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit. After a number of communications between Chandler and Brodsky a lawsuit was filed seeking over 300 emails that Brodsky has not released. According to the lawsuit, “This is an action seeking a writ of mandamus and declaratory relief for a violation of the Florida Public Records Act by Eduardo Brodsky, Chief Assistant State Attorney for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.  Plaintiff contends that Mr. Brodsky has unlawfully refused to produce public records in his possession to which no valid exemption applies.”

The lawsuit states, “Based  on information and belief, included  within the  364 pages of material withheld are public records to  which  no valid  exemption  applies. Review of other records obtained from other sources indicates that items included in the withheld material are records relating to official government business. Mr. Brodsky utilized his governmental e-mail address to conduct substantial governmental business, including the e-mail records sought here.”

Watchdog Wire previously reported on the use of 12th Circuit Court computers, including emails exchanges between Brodsky and Judge Janette Dunnigan, were used to coordinate a fund raising event for the Brodsky campaign. The email violates Canon 7 of the Judicial Code of Ethics and it is a crime under Florida Statutes. Cannon 7 states all judges shall not “publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office.”

A concern among citizens is when requesting public records for officers of the court, the determination of what is and is not a public record is determined after the fact. 

According to Dennis Menendez, Chief Information Officer for the 12th Circuit, the email from Judge Dunnigan, “was previously reviewed for another public records request and was determined to be a private email not subject to public disclosure pursuant to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420(c) and case law.  See State v. City of Clearwater, 863 So. 2d 149 (Fla. 2003) and In re Amendments to Rule of Judicial Administration 2.051-Public Access to Judicial Records, 651 So. 2d 1185 (Fla. 1995).”

When a public records request is made it is then that the officer of the court determines whether it is private or public. For most citizens the use of any government computer during working hours would constitute public use and must therefore be open to Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

It appears officers of the court live by a different set of rules.

A citizen went to both the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney’s Office for the 12th Circuit to file criminal charges against Judge Dunnigan. Both offices refused to take the complaint. The citizen believes there is probable cause that Florida Statute 104.31 was violated by Judge Dunnigan. FS 104.31 states in part:

No officer or employee of the state, or of any county or municipality thereof, except as hereinafter exempted from provisions hereof, shall:

(a) Use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof.

(b) Directly or indirectly coerce or attempt to coerce, command, or advise any other officer or employee to pay, lend, or contribute any part of his or her salary, or any money, or anything else of value to any party, committee, organization, agency, or person for political purposes.

Florida Statute 106.15(4) – makes it a crime to use state property (email server, computer) for campaign purposes. Florida Statute 104.31 – makes it a crime for a state employee to participate in campaign activities while on duty (this email was sent on a date and time when Dunnigan was working on duty as a Judge.

The Florida judicial system appears to protect rather than prosecute its members under Florida’s Sunshine Laws. Perhaps it is time for Governor Rick Scott to appoint a State Attorney to investigate the case of Judge Dunnigan, as he did in the case of Mr. Jarvis?

Suppressing the Military Vote

Many decry any attempt to suppress legal voters from voting legally. John Fund and Hans Von Spakovsky in their book “Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote At Risk” found one group that is being supressed – active duty military voters. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), requires the Federal Voting Assistance Program (a Department of Defense Program) to administer UOCAVA, and requires the Justice Department to enforce it.

According to Fund and Spakovsky there are two primary reasons for military voter disenfranchisement. The first is the “transitory life of a member of the military and delays associated with delivering absentee ballots to remote locations”. The second is “[T]he Pentagon’s failure to provide military voters with timely registration and voting assistance, and the Justice Department’s failure to properly enforce the 1986 federal law guaranteeing the right of overseas civilians and members of the military to vote by absentee ballot”. [My emphasis]

Fund and Spakovsky report:

  • The estimated military voter turn out in 2008 was approximately 30 percent while the overall voting-eligible population turn out was almost 62 percent.
  • In 2006, only 22 percent of nearly 2.6 million military voters cast ballots, compared to 41 percent of the general voting-age population.
  • The Election Assistance Commission found that only 16.5 percent of an estimated six million eligible military and overseas civilian voters requested an absentee ballot, and only 5.5 percent of the ballots were returned and counted.
  • Data from 24 states on the 2010 election shows that only 4.6 percent of eligible military voters cast an absentee ballot that was actually counted.

According to Sarasota County Florida Supervisor Kathy Dent, “States transmitted nearly 1 million ballots to UOCAVA-covered voters (48.6% to military and 37.9% to civilian overseas). Of the ballots transmitted 69% (682,341) were returned and submitted for counting. States reported counting 637,216 UOCAVA ballots or 93.6% of the total submitted for counting. Supervisor Dent notes, “We won’t have information on 2012 General election until January/February 2013.”

Getting absentee ballots to the military and returning them to the states is critical to having them counted. Fund and Spakovsky state, “One of the most significant problems with UOCAVA is that it does not specify when states are required to mail absentee ballots”.

The Election Assistance Commission and others have found that overseas military and civilians absentee ballots must be sent out “at least 45 days before a state’s deadline.” Fund and Spakovsky report, “The Pentagon is required to use expedited mail service to ensure overseas military ballots are returned by Election Day.” However, “due to pressure from its unions, the U.S. Postal Service was made the exclusive carrier for this expedited mail service, rather than allowing competitive bids from private carriers such as Federal Express or DHL . . . Yet nearly one-third of states refuse to follow the 45-day standard, and at least 10 states gave military voters less than 35 days to receive, cast, and return their ballots,” state Fund and Spakovsky.

Florida Statue Section 101.62 requires all UOCAVA absentee ballots to be mailed not later than 45 days prior to an election. If the mailing date falls on a holiday or weekend then the absentee ballots are mailed the prior business day.

An inquiry was sent to Kathy Dent, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections. Suzanne MacFarlane, Absentee Ballot Coordinator for the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections, reports that in Florida during the 2008 General election:

Total UOCAVA absentee ballots transmitted was 121,395 (Military Stateside & Overseas & Citizens Overseas)

Total UOCAVA absentee ballots transmitted to Uniformed Services only was 86,926.

Total UOCAVA absentee ballots returned and counted for Uniformed Services was 66,007 (54%).

The high rates of return and counted ballots may be attributed to the Florida statue requiring mailing not later than 45 days prior to the election.

In 2009 Congress amended UOCAVA requiring states to send absentee ballots to military voters at least 45 days before elections. The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) also required the Pentagon to create installation voting assistance offices on every military base. Florida is home to 21 military bases. The Military Voter Protection Project (MVPP) found in the 2010 election, “[A]t least 14 states and the District of Columbia failed  to comply with the 45-day mailing requirement.” Fund and Spakovsky notes one “troubling provision” of the MOVE Act, which allows states to obtain a one time waiver. Ten states and the District of Columbia applied for the waiver in 2010. One of the states applying was New York. “Many of New York City’s military and overseas ballots, more than 40,000 of them, were sent 25 or fewer days before the election,” note Fund and Spakovsky.

Many of the problems with military absentee votes would have been avoided had the Justice Department enforced UOCAVA and MOVE. MVPP found that the overall military participation rate during the 2010 elections was 11.6 percent. Military personnel were 3.5 times less likely to vote than other voting-age citizens. According to Eric Eversole, Executive Director of MVPP, stated “Justice delayed is justice denied” when it comes to the military absentee vote.


GOP senators ask Panetta to make sure troops can vote


Memorandum: Obama For America Ohio Lawsuit

Judicial Watch Sues for bin Laden Burial at Sea Records

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced that on July 18, 2012, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of the Navy (No. 1:12-cv-01182)) against the United States Navy for records detailing “any funeral ceremony, rite or ritual” for Osama bin Laden prior to his burial at sea. Following the May 2, 2011, Navy SEAL raid that led to bin Laden’s capture and killing, the al Qaeda leader was reportedly transported by the USS Carl Vinson and buried at sea in accordance with Muslim law. If U.S. Navy regulations were followed, the burial would have included a prayer to “Allah” to make bin Laden “enter paradise and save him from the trials of grave and the punishment of hell.”

Pursuant to its March 20, 2011, FOIA request, Judicial Watch seeks access to the following records:

i. Any and all records utilized, referenced, or relied upon during the preparation and execution of any funeral ceremony, rite or ritual for Osama bin Laden on the USS Carl Vinson prior to his burial at sea. This request includes, but is not limited to, the text of any prepared remarks or prayers, any instructions provided to those in attendance, or any instructions or guidance regarding the handling of bin Laden’s remains.

ii. Any and all records of communication between any official or employee of the Department of the Navy and any official or employee of any other government department, agency or office regarding any funeral ceremony, rite, or ritual for Osama bin Laden prior to his burial at sea.

The U.S. Navy acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA request by email dated March 22, 2012, and redirected the request to the Commander, Naval Air Forces on March 27, 2012. By law, a response was due by April 24, 2012. However, as of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit the U.S. Navy has failed to respond to the FOIA request in accordance with the law.

On May 2, 2012, a raid by U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader and mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Quoting Pentagon officials, ABC News reported that bin Laden was buried at sea within 24 hours of his death aboard the USS Carl Vinson in accordance with Muslim law: “…bin Laden’s burial at sea was conducted by a Muslim seaman, who recited the prayers and ensured that the body was washed and wrapped appropriately in cloth.”

According to U.S. Navy regulations, the prayer for Muslim burials includes the following: “O Allah, forgive him, have mercy on him, pardon him, grant him security, provide him a nice place and spacious lodgings, wash him (off from his sins) with water, snow and ice, purify him…make him enter paradise and save him from the trials of grave and the punishment of hell.”

In addition to its lawsuit over the bin Laden funeral records, Judicial Watch also sued the Obama administration to force the release of the bin Laden post-mortem photos and video. The Obama administration continues to withhold these records citing national security concerns. On May 4, 2011, President Obama told CBS News in an interview that he would not release the death photos of Osama bin Laden, who was captured and killed by U.S. Navy Seals, to the public, saying “we don’t need to spike the football” or “gloat.” On April 26, 2012, a federal judge blocked public access to the records.

Judicial Watch also sued the Obama Defense Department and CIA for access to record detailing communications between the Obama administration and Kathryn Bigelow, the Hollywood filmmaker who reportedly received classified information from administration officials in preparation for her upcoming film entitled, “Zero Dark Thirty.” According to records uncovered by Judicial Watch, the Obama Defense Department gave Bigelow and Boal identified and offered to make available to a “planner, Operator and Commander of SEAL Team Six,” which was responsible for the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, to help Bigelow prepare her upcoming feature film.

“Barack Obama is playing politics with bin Laden’s death and ignoring the rule of law – especially the transparency laws that his appointees violate with impunity,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “I suspect the Obama administration is embarrassed by the burial ceremony, which explains our having to go to court to get basic information about this important piece of history.”

Pinellas County Commissioners defy voter-approved term limits

Of the 20 charter counties in Florida, voters in 11 have overwhelmingly approved term limits for their county commissions. Ten of them recognize and respect the law.

The exception is Pinellas County.

In 1996, 73 percent of voters in Pinellas approved a countywide referendum that limited their county commissioners and county constitutional officers to eight years in office. Since then, a split Florida Supreme Court in Cook (2002) decided that counties don’t have the right to impose term limits on constitutional officers. But the Pinellas County commission decided the Cook decision applied to them as well even though the Supreme Court never ruled on commissioner limits in Cook or any other decision.

Until this year. In May, the Supreme Court not only clearly affirmed the constitutionality of county commissioner term limits, but also overturned its previous ruling in Cook regarding constitutional officers.

There is no longer any question whatever about the legality of county term limits in the state of Florida. Sarasota County – the only other county that was defying their voter-approved term limits law – accepted the Supreme Court decision and is now enforcing their popular 8-year term limits.

And yet, the Pinellas county commissioners continue to claim the law does not apply to them. The commissioners do not believe this is true. They simply want to keep their well-paid positions of power and are willing to brazenly defy the law – overwhelmingly approved by the people — in order to keep them.

In Pinellas County, 8-year term limits are currently in the charter. It was never amended to remove them. There is no court ruling that nullified the county commission term limits. On the contrary, there is now a Florida Supreme Court ruling explicitly affirming them.

It is not as if the voters are calling for their repeal. In 2009, a Quinnipiac poll showed that 79 percent of voters in the greater Bay area believe that their politicians should be term limited. Furthermore, the polling suggested that 78 percent prefer that the proper term limit is eight years and opposed longer limits.

Pinellas County commissioners should act honorably and obey the law. The four who have exceeded their legal term limit should resign before being forced to do so by the courts.

Citizen Watchdog Summit: Exposing Voter Fraud in Florida

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity has joined forces with Americans For Prosperity and True the Vote for a very special program! Join us for the Citizen Watchdog Summit: Exposing Voter Fraud in Florida. This will be a two day program of speakers and training that you don’t want to miss!

All eyes are on Florida at election time! Examples of deception, voter irregularities, and illegitimate intent are rampant: Voter Fraud does occur and we want to get the message out! We need to tell the truth about voter fraud even when the establishment media refuses to do so. In addition to tackling this hot issue, we will give you tools to expose and report on the local issues important to us all.

Americans for Prosperity-Florida, True the Vote and the Franklin Center’s Citizen Watchdog program is thrilled to host a two-day summit in South Florida. Please join us on Friday July 27th for an opening night dinner and Saturday, July 28, from 9am to 5pm at the Boca Raton Marriott to learn how you can get involved to hold our elected officials accountable, spread the message and help prevent voter fraud and set this country on a better path for future generations.

You will learn the best tools and techniques in investigative journalism, new media, and opposition research to help you identify and combat voter fraud.

Click here for more information about this event!

We’ll be joined by some of the nation’s leading experts in Election Integrity and citizen journalism. Join us to hear from such leaders as:

• John Fund, Voter Integrity Expert, senior editor of The American Spectator and author of Stealing Elections
• Hannah Giles, whistle blower, activist who helped uncover the unlawful practices of Acorn
• Guy Benson, TownHall.com
• Catherine Englebrecht, True the Vote

Click here to register!

For only $45 per person (the cost of meals and materials), you will learn:

– How Election Integrity can change the course of history
– How and when voter fraud occurs
– What simple task you can do to prevent the corruption of the voter booth
– How to use investigative reporting tools and skills
– How to enhance state transparency with open records laws
– How to hold elected officials accountable through social media
– Legal tools to protect your liberties and empower citizens

Together, we can continue the hard, but important job of taking back America.

Citizen Watchdog Summit: Exposing Voter Fraud in Florida
July 27, 2012 6:30– 9pm Dinner w/ Special Guest John Fund
July 28, 2012 9-5pm Program Training
Boca Raton Marriott at Boca Center
5150 Town Center Circle
Boca Raton, FL 33486

Below please find a complete program agenda for the full two-day training. If you are not able to join us this time, sign up to receive updates on future Franklin Center trainings in Florida.

Citizen Watchdog Summit: Exposing Voter Fraud in Florida
Franklin Center * True The Vote * Americans for Prosperity
July 27-28 – Boca Raton, FL

Friday, July 27

5:30-6pm- Registration

6-9pm- Dinner With Keynote Speaker John Fund

Saturday, July 28

8:30am Continental breakfast

9:00-11:00 am, True The Vote Info and Training

Timeline: Bill Ouren

Teambuilding: Vicki Pullen

Research: Mark Antill

Taking Action in Florida: Catherine Engelbrecht

11:00-11:30am- Exposing the Establishment Media

Hannah Giles, ACORN Whistleblower

11:30- Noon, Intro to Citizen Watchdog Program

Mary Ellen Beatty, Franklin Center

Noon-1pm, Lunch with Guy Benson, TownHall.com

1-2, Investigative Reporting

Yael Ossowski, Florida Watchdog

2-2:45pm- Using Social Media to Hold Your Elected Officials Accountable

Javier Manjarres, The Shark Tank (Florida state blog), http://shark-tank.net/

2:45-3:00pm- Break

3:00-3:30pm- Florida Open Records Law

Jerry Couey, Citizen watchdog from Pensacola

3:30-4:15pm- Understanding Florida’s Key Legislative Issues in 2012

Slade O’Brien, AFP-FL

4:15-5:00pm- Strategic Research: Learning to Vet Important Public Figures

Mary Ellen Beatty, Franklin Center

Over 140 New Florida Laws Took Effect on July 1, 2012

As of July 1, 2012 over 140 new Florida laws took effect. To view a complete list of the new laws click here.

The following are some of the laws passed during the 2012 session and now in effect.

HB 7127 Relating to School Improvement and Education Accountability – Education Committee

School Improvement and Education Accountability: Revises provisions relating to implementation of public school improvement, including use of school improvement plans, corrective actions, intervention & support strategies, & school turnaround options; revises provisions relating to school grading system. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

HB 7087 Relating to Economic Development – Finance & Tax Committee

Economic Development: Provides exemption from intangible tax for lessees performing governmental, municipal, or public purpose or function; establishes funding source for H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute from portion of cigarette tax collections; establishes purposes for which funding to H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute may be used; revises excise tax rates levied upon each ton of phosphate rock severed; defines term “mature field recovery oil” & applies to such oil tiered severance tax rates applicable to tertiary oil; provides exemption from tax on sales, use, & other transactions for electricity used by packinghouses; expands exemptions from sales & use tax on labor, parts, & equipment used in repairs of certain aircraft; provides exemption from tax on sales, use, & other transactions for sale or lease of accessible taxicabs; revises eligibility criteria for tax credits under Urban High-Crime Area Job Tax Credit Program; increases amount of income that is exempt from franchise tax imposed on banks & savings associations, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

HB 7059 Relating to Acceleration Options in Public Education – K-20 Innovation Subcommittee

Acceleration Options in Public Education; Provides for Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning (ACCEL) options to provide eligible public school students educational options that provide academically challenging curriculum or accelerated instruction; requires school district to adopt policy for early graduation; provides for career-themed courses; revises provisions relating to articulated acceleration mechanisms & dual enrollment programs; provides requirements for development & contents of school district & Florida College System institution articulation agreement; requires comprehensive student progression plan to include information on accelerated educational options; provides reporting requirements for student funding; provides for calculation of additional FTE membership based on completion of career-themed courses & early graduation. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

HB 7003 Relating to Environmental Resource Permitting – Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee

Environmental Resource Permitting; Requires DEP, in coordination with water management districts, to develop statewide resource permitting rules for activities relating to management & storage of surface waters; preserves exemption from causes of action under “Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act”; provides exemption from Administrative Procedure Act; requires counties, municipalities, & delegated local pollution control programs to amend ordinances & regulations; provides applicability, effect, & repeal of specified rules; provides presumption of compliance for certain stormwater management systems; provides exemptions for specified stormwater management systems & permitted activities. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

HB 5701 Relating to Taxation – Finance & Tax Committee

Taxation: Requires that deductions for cost of collecting & enforcing documentary stamp tax & for specified service charge be available for payment of certain obligations secured by such tax revenues with respect to bonds authorized before specified date; provides for collection of allowances of amount of tax due by persons who file returns only by electronic means & pay amount due on such returns only by electronic means; adopts 2012 version of Internal Revenue Code for purposes of ch. 220, F.S.; changes filing date for estimated tax under certain circumstances; requires DOR to provide adequate notice to affected taxpayers relating to earlier due dates for making estimated payment, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2012

Eleven Constitutional Amendments on FL Ballot

By Dr. Rich Swier – There are eleven amendments to the Florida Constitution on the November 6, 2012 ballot. Two deal with religious freedom, two address veterans issues, one on public funding of abortions, one on health services, one on the state courts, four dealing with taxes and homestead exemptions and one on the college/university system. All of the amendments were placed on the ballot by the Florida legislature.

The following is a brief description of each of the Florida Constitutional Amendments:

Amendment 1 – Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to prohibit laws or rules from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage; permit a person or an employer to purchase lawful health care services directly from a health care provider; permit a health care provider to accept direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; exempt persons, employers, and health care providers from penalties and taxes for paying directly or accepting direct payment for lawful health care services; and prohibit laws or rules from abolishing the private market for health care coverage of any lawful health care service. Specifies that the amendment does not affect which health care services a health care provider is required to perform or provide; affect which health care services are permitted by law; prohibit care provided pursuant to general law relating to workers’ compensation; affect laws or rules in effect as of March 1, 2010; affect the terms or conditions of any health care system to the extent that those terms and conditions do not have the effect of punishing a person or an employer for paying directly for lawful health care services or a health care provider for accepting direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; or affect any general law passed by two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature, passed after the effective date of the amendment, provided such law states with specificity the public necessity justifying the exceptions from the provisions of the amendment. The amendment expressly provides that it may not be construed to prohibit negotiated provisions in insurance contracts, network agreements, or other provider agreements contractually limiting copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, or other patient charges.

Amendment 2 – Proposing an amendment to Section 6 of Article VII and the creation of Section 32 of Article XII of the State Constitution to expand the availability of the property discount on the homesteads of veterans who became disabled as the result of a combat injury to include those who were not Florida residents when they entered the military and schedule the amendment to take effect January 1, 2013.

Amendment 3 – This proposed amendment to the State Constitution replaces the existing state revenue limitation based on Florida personal income growth with a new state revenue limitation based on inflation and population changes. Under the amendment, state revenues, as defined in the amendment, collected in excess of the revenue limitation must be deposited into the budget stabilization fund until the fund reaches its maximum balance, and thereafter shall be used for the support and maintenance of public schools by reducing the minimum financial effort required from school districts for participation in a state-funded education finance program, or, if the minimum financial effort is no longer required, returned to the taxpayers. The Legislature may increase the state revenue limitation through a bill approved by a super majority vote of each house of the Legislature. The Legislature may also submit a proposed increase in the state revenue limitation to the voters. The Legislature must implement this proposed amendment by general law. The amendment will take effect upon approval by the electors and will first apply to the 2014-2015 state fiscal year.

Amendment 4 – (1) This would amend Florida Constitution Article VII, Section 4 (Taxation; assessments) and Section 6 (Homestead exemptions). It also would amend Article XII, Section 27, and add Sections 32 and 33, relating to the Schedule for the amendments. (2) In certain circumstances, the law requires the assessed value of homestead and specified nonhomestead property to increase when the just value of the property decreases. Therefore, this amendment provides that the Legislature may, by general law, provide that the assessment of homestead and specified nonhomestead property may not increase if the just value of that property is less than the just value of the property on the preceding January 1, subject to any adjustment in the assessed value due to changes, additions, reductions, or improvements to such property which are assessed as provided for by general law. This amendment takes effect upon approval by the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, shall take effect January 1, 2013. (3) This amendment reduces from 10 percent to 5 percent the limitation on annual changes in assessments of nonhomestead real property. This amendment takes effect upon approval of the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, takes effect January 1, 2013. (4) This amendment also authorizes general law to provide, subject to conditions specified in such law, an additional homestead exemption to every person who establishes the right to receive the homestead exemption provided in the Florida Constitution within 1 year after purchasing the homestead property and who has not owned property in the previous 3 calendar years to which the Florida homestead exemption applied. The additional homestead exemption shall apply to all levies except school district levies. The additional exemption is an amount equal to 50 percent of the homestead property’s just value on January 1 of the year the homestead is established. The additional homestead exemption may not exceed an amount equal to the median just value of all homestead property within the county where the property at issue is located for the calendar year immediately preceding January 1 of the year the homestead is established. The additional exemption shall apply for the shorter of 5 years or the year of sale of the property. The amount of the additional exemption shall be reduced in each subsequent year by an amount equal to 20 percent of the amount of the additional exemption received in the year the homestead was established or by an amount equal to the difference between the just value of the property and the assessed value of the property determined under Article VII, Section 4(d), whichever is greater. Not more than one such exemption shall be allowed per homestead property at one time. The additional exemption applies to property purchased on or after January 1, 2011, if approved by the voters at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, or to property purchased on or after January 1, 2012, if approved by the voters at the 2012 general election. The additional exemption is not available in the sixth and subsequent years after it is first received. The amendment shall take effect upon approval by the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, takes effect January 1, 2013. (5) This amendment also delays until 2023, the repeal, currently scheduled to take effect in 2019, of constitutional amendments adopted in 2008 which limit annual assessment increases for specified nonhomestead real property. This amendment delays until 2022 the submission of an amendment proposing the abrogation of such repeal to the voters.

Amendment 5 – Proposing a revision of Article V of the State Constitution relating to the judiciary. The State Constitution authorizes the Supreme Court to adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts. The constitution further provides that a rule of court may be repealed by a general law enacted by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. This proposed constitutional revision eliminates the requirement that a general law repealing a court rule pass by a two-thirds vote of each house, thereby providing that the Legislature may repeal a rule of court by a general law approved by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature that expresses the policy behind the repeal. The court could readopt the rule in conformity with the public policy expressed by the Legislature, but if the Legislature determines that a rule has been readopted and repeals the readopted rule, this proposed revision prohibits the court from further readopting the repealed rule without the Legislature’s prior approval. Under current law, rules of the judicial nominating commissions and the Judicial Qualifications Commission may be repealed by general law enacted by a majority vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. Under this proposed revision, a vote to repeal those rules is changed to repeal by general law enacted by a majority vote of the legislators present. Under current law, the Governor appoints a justice of the Supreme Court from a list of nominees provided by a judicial nominating commission, and appointments by the Governor are not subject to confirmation. This revision requires Senate confirmation of a justice of the Supreme Court before the appointee can take office. If the Senate votes not to confirm the appointment, the judicial nominating commission must reconvene and may not renominate any person whose prior appointment to fill the same vacancy was not confirmed by the Senate. For the purpose of confirmation, the Senate may meet at any time. If the Senate fails to vote on the appointment of a justice within 90 days, the justice will be deemed confirmed and will take office. The Judicial Qualifications Commission is an independent commission created by the State Constitution to investigate and prosecute before the Florida Supreme Court alleged misconduct by a justice or judge. Currently under the constitution, commission proceedings are confidential until formal charges are filed by the investigative panel of the commission. Once formal charges are filed, the formal charges and all further proceedings of the commission are public. Currently, the constitution authorizes the House of Representatives to impeach a justice or judge. Further, the Speaker of the House of Representatives may request, and the Judicial Qualifications Commission must make available, all information in the commission’s possession for use in deciding whether to impeach a justice or judge. This proposed revision requires the commission to make all of its files available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives but provides that such files would remain confidential during any investigation by the House of Representatives and until such information is used in the pursuit of an impeachment of a justice or judge. This revision also removes the power of the Governor to request files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to conform to a prior constitutional change. This revision also makes technical and clarifying additions and deletions relating to the selection of chief judges of a circuit and relating to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and makes other nonsubstantive conforming and technical changes in the judicial article of the constitution.

Amendment 6 – This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. This prohibition does not apply to an expenditure required by federal law, a case in which a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, or a case of rape or incest. This proposed amendment provides that the State Constitution may not be interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution. With respect to abortion, this proposed amendment overrules court decisions which conclude that the right of privacy under Article I, Section 23 of the State Constitution is broader in scope than that of the United States Constitution.

Amendment 7 – REMOVED

Amendment 8 – Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding or other support, except as required by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

Amendment 9 – Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature to provide by general law ad valorem homestead property tax relief to the surviving spouse of a military veteran who died from service- connected causes while on active duty or to the surviving spouse of a first responder who died in the line of duty. The amendment authorizes the Legislature to totally exempt or partially exempt such surviving spouse’s homestead property from ad valorem taxation. The amendment defines a first responder as a law enforcement officer, a correctional officer, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, or a paramedic. This amendment shall take effect January 1, 2013.

Amendment 10 – Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to: (1) Provide an exemption from ad valorem taxes levied by counties, municipalities, school districts, and other local governments on tangible personal property if the assessed value of an owner’s tangible personal property is greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000. This new exemption, if approved by the voters, will take effect on January 1, 2013, and apply to the 2013 tax roll and subsequent tax rolls. (2) Authorize a county or municipality for the purpose of its respective levy, and as provided by general law, to provide tangible personal property tax exemptions by ordinance. This is in addition to other statewide tangible personal property tax exemptions provided by the Constitution and this amendment.

Amendment 11 – Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law and subject to conditions set forth in the general law, to allow counties and municipalities to grant an additional homestead tax exemption equal to the assessed value of homestead property if the property has a just value less than $250,000 to an owner who has maintained permanent residency on the property for not less than 25 years, who has attained age 65, and who has a low household income as defined by general law.

Amendment 12 – Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to replace the president of the Florida Student Association with the chair of the council of state university student body presidents as the student member of the Board of Governors of the State University System and to require that the Board of Governors organize such council of state university student body presidents.

Each Amendment to the Florida Constitution will be sent in a pre-ballot to each registered voter. Voters may review the exact language of each Constitutional amendment.