by Roger C. Kostmayer

Under Senator Mitch McConnell’s leadership, Senate Republicans used and abused Senate rules and procedures (like the filibuster) to obstruct the Obama administration’s efforts to fulfill the mandate the People gave them.  Republicans deliberately filled the courts with right-wing radical judges, often with lifetime appointments.  Republican presidential candidates lost the popular vote by millions, yet won the presidency. They have shamelessly grabbed unearned political power and escalated partisan abuses which culminated in their stealing two Supreme Court seats.  The threat to democracy, law, precedent, checks and balances could not be more real.  The majority of Americans do not want to lose their affordable health care, women’s rights, legal abortions, LBGT equal rights to marry, gun regulations that protect their children, the war on climate change, and the separation of church and state—all of which is imminent unless we take action.

The first and most important action by the majority must be focusing on an overwhelming victory November 3—a victory that puts the Democrats comfortably in charge of the White House, the Senate, the House, and grass roots offices.

Secondly, specific Executive Orders and legislation designed to erase Trump corruption, incompetence, distaste for government and rule of law could begin on day one of the new administration, and that second wave of action would start in January by eliminating the filibuster.

The third wave of actions include statehood for deserving territories such as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands; elimination of the undemocratic and anachronistic Electoral College so that the presidential candidate who gets a majority of the votes wins; and improving the number and diversity of justices on the Supreme Court.

These essential democratic reforms would be important steps toward righting our constitutional democracy and returning our nation to a more unified and level political field.

 

by Phil Dodderidge, Vice-Chair Florida Keys Democrats

Six statewide ballot measures were certified for the ballot in Florida in 2020.

HIGHLIGHTS

 Four citizen initiatives are on the ballot. Amendment 1 would state that only citizens can vote in Florida; Amendment 2 would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2026; Amendment 3 would establish top-two open primaries; and Amendment 4 would require constitutional amendments to be passed twice.

 The Florida Legislature referred two constitutional amendments concerning property taxes to the ballot.

Amendments 1,5, and 6 are non-controversial. Amendment 2 gradually raises the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by September 2026 with increases tied to the CPI thereafter.  This amendment is supported by the Florida Democratic Party and other pro-worker organizations. It is opposed by business organizations like the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Amendment 3 establishes a “Jungle Primary” system for Florida State elections. It is opposed by both parties, the FL Chamber of Commerce, and black legislators of both parties: Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson. “If you’re for Amendment 3, you’re not for the minority community. Period.”

Amendment 4 changes the process to get constitutional amendments passed from a single ballot initiative to 2 sequential ones. It is opposed by every Democratic Leaning organization in the state and supported by shadow GOP organizations.

Florida 2020 Amendments Summary Table
Monroe DEC Position Title Subject Description
NO

 

Amendment 1 Suffrage Amends the state Constitution to state that only U.S. citizens who are 18 years old or older can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections (already the law)
YES Amendment 2 Minimum wage Increases the state minimum wage to $15 by 2026
NO Amendment 3 Elections Establishes a top-two open primary system (i.e., jungle primary) for state office primary elections
NO Amendment 4 Direct democracy Requires voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election
NO Amendment 5 Taxes Increases the period during which a person may transfer “Save Our Homes” benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years
NO Amendment 6 Taxes Allows a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran

____________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 1, the Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative, is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

“yes” vote supports amending the Florida Constitution to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida.

 

“no” vote opposes amending the Florida Constitution, thus keeping the existing language that says “every citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florid

Amendment 1 would amend Section 2 of Article VI of the Florida Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States who are 18 years old or older are qualified electors in Florida.[1]

  • The Florida Constitution currently says, “Every citizenof the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
  • Under the ballot measure, the Florida Constitution would say, “Only a citizenof the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”

Polling Support 80%

Monroe DEC position – Vote NO

____________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 2, the $15 Minimum Wage Initiative, is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

“yes” vote supports the initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15 per hour in September 2026.

 

“no” vote opposes the initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15 in September 2026, thereby keeping the current minimum wage of $8.46 per hour.

Amendment 2 would increase the state minimum wage from $8.56 in 2020 to $15.00 in 2026. Under Amendment 2, the state minimum wage would increase each year as follows:[1]

  • $10.00 on September 30, 2021; $11.00 on September 30, 2022; $12.00 on September 30, 2023; $13.00 on September 30, 2024; $14.00 on September 30, 2025; and $15.00 on September 30, 2026. Beginning on September 30, 2027, there would be an annual adjustment to the state minimum wage based on increases to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

Argument For

Florida For a Fair Wage: “Florida needs to pass the Fair Wage Amendment to ensure that all hard-working Floridians can receive a living wage. The ‘living wage’ is the minimum cost that covers the basic needs of an individual and the needs of their family without government assistance. Florida’s minimum wage of $8.46 – or $17,600 per year – for a full-time employee is not a livable wage for many of the 200,000 hard-working Floridians that earn it, especially those working to support a family.”

Argument Against

 Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association: “The proposed ballot initiative to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour has a lot of feel-good appeal, but behind all the warm and fuzzies lie a plethora of unintended consequences. An increase like this would have disastrous impacts on businesses and individuals alike. Business owners will be forced to find solutions to control costs, and these solutions will have a direct impact on our state’s 1.4 million hospitality workers. The most obvious solutions include reducing the number of employees, reducing the number of hours remaining employees work and seeking labor alternatives like automation.”

Monroe DEC position – Vote Yes

____________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 3, the Top-Two Open Primaries for State Offices Initiative is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

“yes” vote supports establishing a top-two open primary system for primary elections for state legislators, the governor, and cabinet (attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture) in Florida.

 

“no” vote opposes establishing a top-two open primary system for primary elections, thereby leaving in place Florida’s current system where closed primaries are held by each party.

Amendment 3 would change Florida’s primary elections for state legislators, the governor and lieutenant governor, and elected cabinet members (Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Chief Financial Officer) from a closed election to a top-two open primary.[2]

Currently, in Florida, primaries are closed, meaning a voter must be registered with a political party in order to participate in that party’s primary election. Winners of a partisan primary election advance to the general election.

Amendment 3 would replace closed primaries with top-two primaries in which all candidates would be placed on one ballot regardless of political affiliation and the top two candidates with the most votes would advance to the general election. A candidate’s party affiliation may appear on the ballot as provided by law. The primaries would also be open, meaning any registered voter, regardless of their political affiliation, could vote in the primary election.

Under Amendment 3, in cases where only two candidates qualify for the primary election, the primary would be canceled, and the election winner would be decided in the general election. If approved by 60% of voters at the 2020 general election, the top-two open primary system would be used beginning in 2024.

Argument For

“For the first time in decades, the voters of Florida will have the chance to decide for themselves whether to let all voters vote. Not surprisingly, the Democrat and Republican Parties don’t want them to have that choice. Leadership of both parties has attacked the campaign and filed court papers to sabotage it, declaring that it ‘confuses voters,’ and ‘takes away voter choice.’ Make no mistake, they are united against letting the voters decide.”

Argument Against

People Over Profits: “An unforeseen outcome of this proposal is the loss of minority representation in both legislative chambers. … Under Amendment 3, both electoral access and representation of people of color would be all but erased. … [t]he inclusion of Republican and independent voters in a Black majority district would allow white Democratic candidates the opportunity to defeat a Black Democrat in the context of a larger general election electorate. … The amendment would all but eliminate third parties from competing in the November general election.”

Monroe DEC position – Vote No

 _______________________________________________

Florida Amendment 4, the Require Constitutional Amendments to be Passed Twice Initiative, is on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

“yes” vote supports requiring voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election to become effective.

 

“no” vote opposes requiring voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election to become effective.

Amendment 4 would require constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at two successive general elections to become effective. Currently in Florida, if voters approve an amendment at one general election, it becomes part of the constitution.

In Florida, constitutional amendments require a 60% supermajority vote to become effective. This requirement was added to the constitution in 2006. Under Amendment 4, the supermajority requirement would apply to both elections.

Argument For

Keep Our Constitution Clean PC: “By doing pass-it-twice, we think we can reduce the amount of … whimsical constitutional amendments. [In Florida], there have been more than 140 constitutional amendments [since the 1960s]. The United States Constitution, which has been around since the 1700s, has been amended 27 times.

Argument Against

The Florida Democratic Party urges the voters of Florida to protect the power they have to overrule career politicians and big-money special interests and to VOTE AGAINST AMENDMENT 4 (Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments).

Monroe DEC position – Vote No

___________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 5, the Florida Extend “Save Our Homes” Portability Period Amendment, is on the ballot in Florida as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

A “yes” vote supports extending the period during which a person may transfer Save Our Homes benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years.

 

A “no” vote opposes extending the period during which a person may transfer Save Our Homes benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years.

Homesteads, or primary residences, are subject to property taxes in Florida, which must be assessed at just value, except that every primary residence is eligible for a $25,000 homestead exemption. Another $25,000 homestead exemption is applied to homesteads that have an assessed value of more than $50,000 up to $75,000. The homestead exemption reduces the taxable value of a property.

Amendment 10 of 1992, a citizen initiative known as the “Save Our Homes Amendment”, limited homestead property valuation increases for homes receiving a homestead exemption to a maximum of 3% annually. Voters approved the measure in a vote of 54% to 46%. The difference between the just value and the assessed value is referred to as the Save Our Homes (SOH) benefit.

Argument For

Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board: “People who sell their houses covered by a homestead exemption have two years to move into a new house and carry that tax break along with them. Except they really don’t. … To transfer the Save Our Homes exemption, Florida law says a homeowner must have “received a homestead exemption as of Jan. 1 of either of the two immediately preceding years.” So someone could easily miss out by selling a home late in the year and then building a new home that isn’t finished by New Year’s of the year after next — in other words, after only a year and a few days had passed. … This simple change means that the Constitution would reflect what voters intended, that homeowners could take their exemption with them for two full years or more — and not lose it in the space of a year and a few days. Lawmakers should put this sensible change on the ballot, and voters should approve the amendment in November.”

This amendment was passed unanimously in the Fl House and Senate to be put on the ballot, March 2020

Argument Against

Monroe DEC position – Vote no.  Specific taxes have no place in the State Constitution. The appropriate place for this to happen is laws passed by legislation.

___________________________________________________

Florida Amendment 6, the Homestead Property Tax Discount for Spouses of Deceased Veterans Amendment, is on the ballot in Florida as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.

A “yes” vote supports allowing a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.

 

A “no” vote opposes allowing a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.

This amendment would allow a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran. The discount would be in effect until the spouse remarries, sells, or otherwise disposes of the property. If the spouse sells the property and does not remarry, the spouse’s new primary residence may receive a homestead tax discount not exceeding the dollar amount from the most recent ad valorem tax roll. The amendment would take effect January 1, 2021.[1]

Currently, the homestead property tax discount for veterans expires upon their death and is not extended to their spouses.

Argument For

The measure was passed unanimously in both chambers of the Florida State Legislature, March 2020.

Argument Against

Monroe DEC position – Vote no.  Specific taxes have no place in the State Constitution. The appropriate place for this to happen is laws passed by legislation.

Recently, a local businessman and attorney who is not involved in partisan politics or opinion letters sent a letter to the Key West Mayor and Commissioners.  Following is an edited version:

Limiting or eliminating mandatory mask requirements would be counterproductive, dangerous, and would delay economic recovery.

It is undisputed that Covid 19 spreads by someone who is infected exhaling germs, causing others to inhale them, and this then spreads exponentially unless something prevents it. It’s not rocket science to conclude that putting a filter between you and the air around you prevents the spread.  It’s simple logic. 

If we want to have more businesses survive and flourish, and our lives be more normal, we have to conquer this disease.  If masks help us get there, why would anyone reject requiring masks where people are interacting?  If everyone (citizens, tourists, and politicians) acted responsibly and agreed to protect others and themselves, it would be easy to require masks.  But the reality is too many of us don’t act reasonably and, therefore, an enforceable ordinance is required.   

As to the idiotic idea that government doesn’t have the  right to require its citizens to wear masks, any lawyer will tell you the Constitution specifically grants government the authority to pass laws to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. That is why we pass seat belt laws, set speed limits, and establish other laws that protect us.

People don’t have the right to violate laws that are legally created.  Our Mayor and Commissioners are caretakers of our community and have the obligation to take actions, no matter how unpopular, that protect Key West. Requiring masks and following science is one such necessary action.

by John Howe

I’m sure most Americans, especially the friends and families of the more than 200,000 Americans (and counting) who have died from COVID-19, don’t like hearing President Trump say, over and over, that he has the virus “under control.”

For more than a month after scientists told him about it, Trump wasted precious time (and American lives) flip-flopping between praising and criticizing China’s response, imposing slipshod China travel restrictions, calling the pandemic a “hoax,” and insisting that it would magically “disappear” without a vaccine. A Columbia University study later estimated that 36,000 American lives would have been saved if broad social distancing had started only a few weeks earlier.

Trump then suggested injecting disinfectants and hyped hydroxychloroquine as a possible therapeutic, even after medical experts warned that both treatments would be dangerous. He threatened to withhold funding from the World Health Organization. He urged local economies and schools to reopen before it was safe to do so, recklessly ignoring guidelines developed by his own administration’s experts at the Centers for Disease Control.

After many weeks of deriding masks, again ignoring medical science, Trump reluctantly decided he wouldn’t look too bad wearing one, but only as an optional accessory, not a public health requirement.

Meanwhile, he refused to fully invoke the Defense Production Act and develop a national strategy for actually dealing with the virus. Instead he dumped that huge challenge on states and municipalities that don’t have the vast resources of the federal government, dooming them to squabble over scarce supplies of test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

As of August 28, the United States, with only four percent of the world’s population, had by far the most COVID-19 cases of any country. No wonder most Americans, including many Republicans, don’t trust anything Trump says about this unprecedented national disaster and epic personal failure that he’s still trying to dodge. It’s now up to the rest of us to “stop this nonsense” (as Dr. Anthony Fauci, our nation’s top epidemiologist, has politely suggested), beat back the virus, then fully restore our economy, with mutual respect, true grit, and dependable science.

Fake News: “False news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared online for the purpose of generating ad revenue via web traffic or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.” 

–Time Magazine

Tips to spot Fake News

There has been an explosion of misinformation and conspiracy theories on the web, amplified by social media, about COVID19 and current events. Online rumors and misinformation have created confusion, chaos and some hoaxes have induced violence with loss of life. To discern today’s online experience, multiple studies have suggested everyone needs to be digital media literate with the ability to evaluate information on various digital platforms.

To counter Fake News, Sarah Blakeslee and her team of librarians at California State University, Chico (CSU Chico) developed the CRAAP test as a guide to discern whether or not a web item is Fake News. It has become widely used by higher education librarians at universities to educate incoming students about Fake News.

The CRAAP test aims to make it easier for everyone, not just educators and students, to determine if their sources can be trusted. By employing the test while evaluating sources, anyone can reduce the likelihood of using unreliable information or fake news.

In researching sources for this blog post, I found that one of the best compendium of articles, infographics and videos about fake news is a web site developed by Madison Area Technical College.  It has resources to explain why Fake News is created, tips for spotting Fake News, CRAAP test, fact checking and other topics related to Fake News. Miami Dade College also has a good web site about Fake News as well. Facebook which is known to be fertile digital grounds for viral misinformation spread, has taken some steps to educate users to identify false information.  Their “Tips to Spot False News” consists of ten strategies readers can use to identify misleading stories.

Election 2020 and Fake News

Staying informed online for election information has its risks. Unlike a print publisher, digital news providers can observe, store, and analyze your every news choice, how long you interacted with it, whether you shared it and what you did after viewing it. With such data, it can filter what you see, showing you more content that aligns with your worldview—essentially putting you in your very own “news bubble.”

BEWARE – Sometimes this filtering leads readers to made-up or fake news, such as stories about 5G cellphone towers found to cause COVID-19(!) or that drinking bleach kills the virus (it does not!!!).  Facebook and other social media have taken steps to identify such hoaxes, but more are posted every day and some get past their filters. Also, they get millions of “likes” from users.

Using the CRAAP test and other digital media literacy tools, we can inspect election news for accuracy and validity.

According to the averages of public presidential polls, Vice President Joe Biden is clearly ahead in both the popular vote and the vote in key swing states.  Unless there’s a sudden major event that turns the race upside down, the presidency is Joe’s to lose.  Republican advisors are hoping that President Trump can pull off an October surprise or a knockout in a nationally televised debate—either by outrageous attacks or a significant Biden misstep.

Some Biden advisors ask “why risk a debate,” and recommend that Joe be upfront, refuse to debate, and just run out the clock, even if that puts him in an unprecedented position that will be exploited by Trump and his ilk.

An astute friend suggested an interesting third option based on Trump’s own unprecedented position in refusing to disclose his taxes and finances.  Fairness and transparency are important if the American people are to get relevant information about both Presidential candidates, yet Trump is the only Presidential candidate in modern history to refuse to disclose his finances and potential conflicts of interest.

Here is what I propose: Joe could agree to debate Trump—but only if Trump follows the same rules and traditions of releasing his income tax and financial reports that every other Presidential candidate in recent history has.  This approach might put Trump on the horns of a dilemma because the public focus would be on his honesty and criminality, instead of on why Joe is hesitant to debate. This strategy assumes Trump loses either way—he loses his last chance to debate, or he loses by confirming that he’s a crook.

What would you advise Joe to do: Debate?  Refuse? Or refuse to debate unless Trump releases his finances?