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2014 Voters To Decide Constitutional Amendments

Photo via Flickr//Vox Efx

  While the governor's race has been the main topic of conversation heading up to Election Day, there are some proposed amendments to the state constitution on the ballot, too. 

Voters will be saying yea or nay to three constitutional amendments this year, and it's Amendment 2 that's getting most of the attention. That's the proposal to allow the use of medical marijuana in the state by patients diagnosed with qualifying conditions by a licensed Florida physician. Mary Gutierrez, Co-President of the League of Women Voters Pensacola Bay says if the proposed amendment is passed, the state Department of Health will have to license the centers than produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes. The DOH would also issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. You can read more on Amendment 2 here.

Amendment One on this year's ballot would dedicate money to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands. It essentially takes the funding of the state Land Acquisition Trust Fund out of the hands of the legislature and sets up an automatic money source for the fund for the next 20 years. Gutierrez says the money for the fund had been under control of the legislature which has at times diverted it to other uses. This amendment would guarantee the fund is used for its original purpose.  This amendment does not raise any taxes or impose an new taxes, it only guarantees that about 33% percent of the money collect from "doc stamps" associated with buying and selling real estate in Florida would go straight to the fund. There have been concerns, particularly from people in the panhandle that the money will be used mostly in south Florida, and while Gutierrez says the Everglades would probably warrant more of the money than other areas in the state, it is up to the people in each community to identify and advocate for the fund to be used to purchase local sensitive lands. The Land Acquisition Trust Fund was established in 1963. If Amendment One is passed, it's estimated that $648 millionwould go to the fund in fiscal year 2015-16.

The third amendment on the ballot has to do with the appointment of judges on the Florida Supreme Court and district courts of appeal.  Rosemary Hays-Thomas, past co-president of the Pensacola League of Women Voters says currently, if a governor is set to leave office at the same time a judge's term expires then the sitting governor can ask the judicial selection panel for nominees to fill the judge's post, but the incoming governor makes the ultimate selection. An advisory decision from the Florida Supreme Court in 2006 affirmed this. There are members of the legislature who want to change that to let the outgoing governor make those appointments, and that's what this amendment would allow. Hays-Thomas says supporters of the amendment say it would shorten the time between justices, lightening the workload. However there is already a remedy in place for that potential problem. If the amendment does pass, it would go into effect next year and would not affect the nominating process this year. In fact, the next time this situation would present itself would be in 2019, when four justices are expected to retire on the same day a new governor may take office.

For the record, the League of Women Voters is strongly recommending voting yes on Amendment 1, has no official position on Amendment 2 and is recommending voting no on Amendment 3. You can find more information from the league on all of the issues and candidates on Florida's ballot here.