Pubdate: Thu, 23 Oct 2014
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2014 Miami Herald Media Co.



Florida's natural environment is its bread and butter, its tourist
magnet, its lush and storied history and, if voters approve this
amendment, its glorious future.

Amendment 1 would use existing state revenue - money that already is
being paid into state coffers - and dedicate it to purchase and
preserve natural areas and wildlife habitat for the next 20 years.

This is not a new tax that advocates seek to impose. Rather, it's a
practical way to make up for what state lawmakers have for too long
failed to do: Make preserving Florida's fragile environment the
priority that it should be. The amendment would take one third of the
fees that the state already collects when property is sold. The fees
on these real-estate transactions are called "doc stamps," which,
since 1968, have been used for water and land conservation.

But successive legislatures have acted irresponsibly and diverted
these funds - as well as trust funds dedicated to other good causes -
to plug budget holes elsewhere. Unfortunately, funding for such
conservation projects has been cut 95 percent.

The amendment has the potential to raise $10 billion over 20 years,
then it would sunset. The temporary nature of the proposal is as
attractive as its sole mission - protecting vital water resources and
wildlife habitat, restoring degraded ecosystems; and conserving an
additional 2 million acres of privately owned land to save threatened
rivers, springs and coastal areas. Its other mission is just as vital
- - keeping lawmakers' hands out of this cookie jar. The Miami Herald
recommends YES on Amendment 1.


We admit it. Making a recommendation on Amendment 2 has been a
struggle for the Editorial Board. This is a game changer for the
state, and we know it.

What Pandora's Box would swing open? Remember the pill mills in
Broward County? But how can we turn our backs on offering relief to
the ill and infirm?

Amendment 2 would change the Florida Constitution to legalize medical
marijuana. In its purest intent, it allows the chronically ill, those
in pain or dying, supposedly with their doctor's consent, to use
medical marijuana to make their life more bearable.

As the most controversial amendment on the ballot, it has passionate
opponents and proponents, who both make a good case for their side.

Opponents, who are not out of the Hollywood panic-classic Reefer
Madness, are adamant this is the worst thing for the state, although
Florida is not the first to approve medical marijuana. They say
doctors will not be the ones writing prescriptions for the drug
because Amendment 2 only requires "a recommendation." They say the way
Amendment 2 is worded allows someone who hasn't undergone any medical
training, or been subject to a background check, to become a
"caregiver" to the marijuana patient. Under Amendment 2, caregivers
are given total immunity.

But advocates say loopholes in Amendment 2 - by law, the wording is
loosey-goosey - will all be regulated by the Florida

Leading the opposition is Stephanie Haridopolos, a Melbourne doctor
and wife of former state Sen. Mike Haridopolos. She told the Editorial
Board she fears medical pot will be dispensed like Oxycodone was in
Broward a decade ago and more people than ever will drive under the
influence. Other opponents include the Florida Sheriff's Association,
the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
The amendment has spilled into the governor's race: Gov. Rick Scott
opposes it; Charlie Crist supports it.

For those in favor, this amendment spells relief from pain, nausea and
other conditions associated with their illness. Passage of the
amendment means patients will go to a doctor, who can recommend they
receive a medical-marijuana card. The card will be issued by the
Florida Department of Health. With the card, the patient can buy
medical marijuana at dispensaries expected to spring up in the state.

Of this we can be sure: The Legislature deserves particular
condemnation here. Florida is at this juncture because state lawmakers
didn't do their jobs. They ignored medical marijuana completely until
it looked like it would pass. They then passed a scaled-back law,
Charlotte's Web, that essentially will help no one with AIDS, cancer
or ALS and was done almost exclusively to make it look like lawmakers

With some reluctance, the Miami Herald recommends a YES vote for
Amendment 2.


Amendment 3 is a subversive idea that should never have made it onto
the ballot: A proposal to allow lame-duck governors to make court
appointments before a judicial seat is vacant.

Many voters will surely find themselves scratching their heads when
they read the ballot language empowering the governor to fill
"prospective vacancies," which means a vacancy that doesn't exist.
This represents a complete change from today's sensible standard: The
governor in office makes judicial appointments as the vacancies occur.

The Legislature justified this silliness with talk about "clarifying"
the appointment power and eliminating the possibility of prolonged
court vacancies. Nonsense. The rules in place ensure smooth
transitions when justices retire or are not retained in an election.

The proposal has nothing to do with solving a problem - which doesn't
exist - and everything to do with partisan politics in Tallahassee. It
would confer on the outgoing governor the authority to fill three
anticipated Supreme Court vacancies four years from now, at the same
time that the governor's term expires - thus taking the appointment
power away from the incoming governor.

Voters should reject partisan politics' intrusion into the judicial
system. On Amendment 3, the Herald recommends voting NO. 
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