Q. Can you provide some information on the proposed constitutional amendments that will be appearing on the November ballot? 

A. Using resources provided by Florida TaxWatch, The James Madison Institute, the BallotPedia, Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities, Inc., the League of Women Voters, the Tampa Bay Times, and the Constitution Revision Commission, I will try to summarize the amendments with the purpose only to provide some information that might be helpful to encourage more informed votes. This week I will look at Amendments 3 and 4, both citizen initiatives where a certain number of signatures are required of registered voters to get the amendment on a ballot.

Amendment 3 would require voters to approve casino gambling in Florida: A yes vote supports giving citizens the exclusive right to decide whether to allow casino gambling, essentially stripping that authority from the Legislature. It would continue to allow the Legislature to approve other types of non-casino gambling, such as poker rooms, bingo, lotteries, and fantasy sports, and to oversee, regulate, and tax any casino-type gambling that voters approve. It would not affect the state’s ability to negotiate casino agreements involving Native-American tribal lands.

This measure would consider card games, casino games, and slot machines to be casino gambling and would not consider pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, dog racing, or jai alai exhibitions to be casino gambling. A no vote would support continuing to allow casino gambling either through new laws passed by the Legislature or through various types of constitutional amendments.

Supporters claim Floridians should have the final word on casino gambling in the state, and that by putting the power in the hands of voters, it is less likely special interests would be able to influence policy decisions regarding gambling. Opponents say policy and lawmaking functions are delegated to our legislative branch of government, and holding a vote on the issue leads to unnecessary referendums. It is reported the Supreme Court legalized sports betting earlier this year and putting gambling decisions in the hands of voters will limit the potential gambling developments and create another hurdle in a litany of regulations.

Supporters include Voters in Charge, Disney Worldwide Services; Florida Chamber of Commerce; Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association; the League of Women Voters of Florida; and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Opposing this amendment is the Florida Education Association and Vote No on 3.

Amendment 4 would allow those Floridians with felony convictions who have completed their entire sentence, to earn the right to vote back except for those convicted of murder or felony sex offenses: A yes vote would grant felons, excluding those convicted of murder or felony sex crimes, the right to vote after completing all the terms of their sentence. A no vote would continue the current requirement that felons wait a minimum of five years before applying to have their voting rights restored and then appear before the governor and cabinet to appeal for those rights. With this process, the governor and cabinet have sole authority to determine whether a felon is allowed to vote again.

Supporters claim this amendment will re-enfranchise individuals who have paid their debt to society in full. An estimated 1.5 million Floridians would regain their right to vote. One study concluded Florida’s annual economy could see a boost of $365 million, and an increase of 3,400 jobs if the amendment were to pass. Florida is one of four states, along with Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia, where convicted felons do not regain the right the vote until and unless a state officer or board restores that right. Opponents claim a process to award felons their voting rights already exists, and they argue that the amendment is an all or nothing proposal that does not consider the nature of the crime committed as it only makes exceptions for murder and sexual offenses.

Supporters include American Civil Liberties Union; Florida Rights Restoration Coalition; Floridians for a Fair Democracy; Florida Policy Institute; Florida Education Association; Florida National Organization for Women; League of Women Voters of Florida; and Progress Florida. Opposing is Floridians for a Sensible Voting Rights Policy.

If you have any questions or comments about this column, please forward them to: Marcia Johnson, Clerk of the Court, 33 Market Street, Ste. 203, Apalachicola, Florida, or by email to: mmjohnson@franklinclerk.com. Visit the Clerk’s website at www.franklinclerk.com.