Summary: Amendment 10 is a four-part measure that would:
- Require, instead of allowing, a state Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Create a state office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism.
- Require the legislature to convene on the second Tuesday of January in even-numbered years
- Prohibit counties from abolishing the positions of sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, and clerk of the circuit court, and require elections for those positions.
Proponents’ Argument For
As it pertains to the Department of Veterans Affairs, proponents point out that Florida already has established this agency, so this portion of the measure would not impose additional costs on taxpayers, it would simply guarantee that this agency is not subject to Florida’s constitutional restriction that the state have no more than 25 state agencies that are not prescribed in the state constitution. This would remove any uncertainty about the future of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
As it pertains to the office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism, proponents argue that Florida remains vulnerable, as a large state with an extensive coastline, to water, air, and land attacks, yet has no formal counter-terrorism unit. This measure would bring Florida into the 21st century of counter-terrorism.
As it pertains to establishing legislative dates in the constitution, proponents argue that this would stop the legislature from changing the dates in the future for political purposes or the convenience of legislators rather than the people, and would create more consistency. It would make it easier for citizens to engage with their government.
As it pertains to the requirement and election of local officers, proponents argue that this measure would finally bring uniformity and representation at the local level all across Florida. Currently, counties such as Miami-Dade have altered the structure of their local government and also do not allow for elections of many local offices. This measure would ensure a similar local government office in all Florida counties and ensure they are elected and representative.
Opponents’ Argument Against
As it pertains to the Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism measure, opponents argue that this is a costly and redundant measure which overlaps with the responsibilities of the federal government. While citizen safety should be a priority of government, more agencies are not obviously a better solution than prioritization and intergovernmental cooperation by existing law enforcement agencies.
As it pertains to the requirement and election of county officers, opponents argue that this measure is a gross violation of home rule. Citizens and policymakers in local areas should have the option to shape and form their government in the way they best see fit. This measure centralizes those decisions at the state level, denying counties the ability to experiment with different structures.
It is a terrible idea to bundle disparate measures together in a ballot initiative, even if they are loosely related as in this case. The bundling denies voters the opportunity to vote on the merits of each of the major legal changes in the amendment, forcing them to accept or deny the good elements with the bad, which can look very much like an attempt to bundle popular measures with unpopular ones to achieve a different electoral outcome than the state would get if the measures were presented to voters individually.
As it pertains to the office of Veteran’s Affairs, and to legislative dates, these are basically housecleaning measures that don’t have much real impact from a taxpayer perspective.
As it pertains to the Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism, it is not obvious why the state needs an agency to focus on something that is clearly a federal policy priority. Florida has no advantage over federal agencies in determining terrorist threats or countering them. The likely result is unnecessary redundancy and confusion that diverts law enforcement resources form priorities at the state and local level. Indeed with domestic security and terrorism, the crucial issue is intelligence and shared information. Creating more agencies could create more challenges to sharing information and allocating responsibilities and resources. Spending the considerable resources this office would cost Florida, especially when the benefits are not clearly established and goals are not clearly understood, would be bad policy.
As it pertains to the requirement of certain offices and elections at the local level, information, records, and many other government-related documents would likely be transferred and shared more easily if all governments had the exact same offices. However, this does detract from home rule and self-governance. The state could achieve goals of citizen access to information and services without requiring specific offices and methods of selecting officers in every county. Indeed these roles of local government are provided many different ways nationwide and there is no obvious right way to do it, so it is arrogant of the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to assert they know the best way for every county in the state to manage its own services. Counties are adequately accountable to their citizens for these decisions and there is no apparent need for the state to intervene, let alone lock it into the state constitution.
The Voters’ Guide examines the proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution that are on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot.