By JESSE LONG
The first thought that comes to most people’s’ minds when they hear about the election is typically about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. What many people don’t talk about it is the fact that the presidential election is only one part of the ballot, and that there are more issues to consider.
On Nov. 8 the ballot will feature four amendments for Florida voters. The four amendments focus on rights of electricity consumers regarding solar energy choice, legalization of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions, tax exemption for totally and permanently disabled first responders, and homestead tax exemption for certain senior, low‐income, long‐term residents.
Solar energy has become a popular topic in Florida over the past few months. In August during the primary election, Amendment 4, another solar amendment was passed. Amendment 4 now provides tax relief to businesses that own or lease solar panels.
Amendment 1 establishes a right for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. In addition, State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.
Supporters for the amendment argue that this would protect citizens who aren’t interested in generating solar power, or can’t afford to buy or lease rooftop panels to do it, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
However, opponents to the amendment believe that this language would open the door for fees and other policies that would make it more expensive for individuals to install rooftop panels to generate electricity.
Dr. Jessa Madosky and Dr. Stephen Kucera, faculty in the UT Biology Department, are apart of the faculty sustainability committee and have recently written a response to Amendment 1.
“We have solar arrays on our homes. We support solar power. We are adamantly opposed to Amendment 1,” Dr. Kucera and Dr. Madosky said. “We, along with the unanimous support of the faculty sustainability committee encourage you to do some research before you cast your ballot. Learn who is paying for this advertising campaign that sounds so very appealing and consider what the real goal is behind the pretty wording and slick advertising campaign.”
The legalization of medical marijuana has returned to the Florida ballot once again after failing in 2014. The 2014 amendment required a 60 percent vote to pass and fell just short of it at 58 percent. If passed, the amendment would legalize medical marijuana in the state of Florida. The new amendment has made some minor tweaks and still needs 60 percent of the vote in order to pass.
The new amendment now requires parental consent for minors and makes it clear that doctors are not immune to malpractice claims for negligently prescribing marijuana.
The amendment would benefit individuals who suffer from a debilitating medical condition. This includes diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. In addition, patients would only qualify for medical marijuana use if their physician decides that the benefits of marijuana outweigh the potential harms.
Natasha Acosta, a senior international and cultural studies and government and world affairs double major, believes that medical marijuana should be taken advantage of.
“I feel that other than the presidential election; amendments and other Florida laws (such as the legalization of medical marijuana) are even more of a reason to get out and vote and have your voice heard,” Acosta said. “I support medical marijuana because I believe it can revolutionize medicine and give more options and hope to people who don’t have very many options within the pharmaceutical industry.”
On the opposing side of medical marijuana is the fear that it will lead to legalization of marijuana. In addition, there are some Florida doctors that see no medical value to using marijuana. The Florida Medical Association also opposes the amendment, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Luis Suira, a senior political science major and president of College Democrats, also feels that these issues are a major concern and students should understand the amendments so they can vote accordingly on election day.
Suira explained his reasoning behind how he will vote in November.
“Vote no on one because it is branded as a solar energy bill to benefit the people, but it was actually designed to benefit TECO and other businesses,” Suira said. “Vote yes on two because there is a large elderly population that can benefit from regulated medicinal marijuana.”
This amendment mandates property tax exemptions for first responders who are permanently disabled as a result of injuries gained during the line of duty.
The final amendment proposes a revision to the homestead tax exemption. If passed, it would provide a tax break for senior citizens, permanently disabled veterans over the age of 65, and the spouses of veterans or first responders who died in the line of duty who own homes valued at less that $250,000.
Students can find more information about the breakdown of the ballot at http://www.wptv.com/news/political/your-ballot-in-plain-english-a-guide-to-floridas-2016-election-an-explanation-of-the-amendments.
The full text of the amendments can be found online at http://dos.myflorida.com/elections/, as well as additional information regarding voting and the election.
Jesse Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.