The St. Petersburg Times will publish its Know Your Candidates guide on Tuesday, which includes stories on the state constitutional amendments on the ballot. For those who plan to vote early, here is a brief overview of the eight amendments on the ballot.
Authorizes the Legislature to require the notification of a parent or guardian of a minor seeking an abortion. Attempts to pass a state law requiring such notification have been struck down as violating the right to privacy in the state Constitution. This would alter the Constitution to allow for the law. The amendment also would require that the Legislature provide a mechanism for judges to waive the notification requirement in special cases.
Moves up the deadline for submitting signatures to put citizen-proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. Instead of the current 91 days before a general election, the signatures would have to be submitted by Feb. 1 of the election year. Proponents say this change would provide more time for voters to digest the full implications of amendments before casting a vote. Opponents say the change would make it harder for grass-roots efforts to collect enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot.
Limits the share of damages that patients' lawyers would receive in medical malpractice cases. The amendment would restrict the amount to 30 percent of the first $250,000 of an award and 10 percent of the money above that, excluding court costs. Currently, most lawyers charge no money up front but receive 30 percent to 40 percent of any money the patient collects. Lawyers say the change would make it difficult for patients to find attorneys to take on complex malpractice cases. But doctors, who are behind the amendment, say the amendment would give lawyers fair compensation.
Asks voters to give residents in Miami-Dade and Broward counties the chance to vote to approve slot machines at existing parimutuel gambling sites. If the amendment passes, voters in those counties could then vote in separate elections on whether to allow slot machines at jai alai frontons and dog and horse tracks in their area. Any taxes collected would be dedicated statewide for education.
Raises the minimum wage in Florida by $1 to $6.15 per hour. The amendment would also require the state to reset the minimum wage every Jan. 1, based on inflation. Tipped employees, such as restaurant waiters, would also see an increase from $2.13 to $3.13 an hour. Most of Florida's business community opposes Amendment 5, saying it would increase their costs and drive up prices for consumers. The backers of the amendment say the minimum wage hasn't increased since 1997 and has lost 40 percent of its buying power since 1968.
Ends the plan for a bullet train in Florida. This amendment would repeal the constitutional amendment that voters passed in 2000 that called for a high-speed rail system to connect the five largest metropolitan areas in the state. Bullet-train opponents, including Gov. Jeb Bush, say the cost of the system is far more than voters realized. Backers say the voters meant what they said in 2000 and want high-speed rail in Florida.
Requires doctors and hospitals to give patients and prospective patients information about mistakes they have made. They now report much of that information to the state, but it is kept confidential. The amendment would require doctors and hospitals to release information about negligence, misconduct and other mistakes that either led or could have led to patients being hurt or killed. Backers say consumers can use the information to help them choose the best doctors and hospitals. Opponents say the measure would lead to doctors and hospitals trying to hide more errors by not reporting them, thus preventing a study on preventing future problems.
Requires doctors to stop practicing in Florida if they have three legal malpractice judgments or state disciplinary actions against them. The amendment is sponsored by a lawyer-backed group that says it would protect patients from the worst doctors and would affect relatively few. Opponents say it would drive out of Florida specialists in high-risk medicine, such as obstetrics or brain surgery, who are more likely to face lawsuits.