Monday, September 3, 2012

Articles for Labor Day Weekend

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Florida General Election 2012 - Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Florida General Election 2012 - Proposed Constitutional Amendments
60% voter approval required to take effect
Note that there is no Amendment #7
Endorsing “Yes” vote on all constitutional amendments
 

Amendment #1 - HEALTH CARE SERVICES

·         This amendment is intended to preserve the freedom of Florida residents to provide for their own health care, and is aimed at thwarting the ObamaCare federal health care overhaul

·         The measure aims to prevent penalties for not purchasing health care coverage in order to comply with federal health care reforms, and would ban federal government mandates to buy health insurance

·         Supporters hope that this amendment would allow Floridians to choose not to participate in the individual mandate requirement, but many legal experts say it would have no effect because the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution generally leads to federal laws trumping state laws when conflicts arise

·         A nearly identical amendment was proposed in 2010, but was kicked off the ballot by the FL Supreme Court because of misleading wording

·         This version was filed by Plakon in the House & Haridopolos in the Senate – after tweaking the wording to address the FL Supreme Court’s concerns

·         All 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 79 out of 81 House Republicans




·         This amendment will expand the availability of the property tax discount on the homesteads of veterans who became disabled as the result of a combat injury to veterans who were not Florida residents when they entered the military

·         Sponsored by Senator Mike Bennett, related to a bill in the House sponsored by Representative Doug Holder

·         If approved by the voters, this bill will allow partially or totally disabled veterans who were not Florida residents when they entered the military to qualify for the combat-related disabled veterans’ ad valorem tax discount on homestead property

·         The Revenue Estimating Conference estimates that the total impact on taxes will be about $15 million in the first 3 fiscal years, and about $7.6 million every year afterwards

·         The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates the maximum number of veterans who may qualify for the benefit proposed in this bill to be approximately 74,000

·         Since 2010, veterans have been eligible for this ad valorem tax discount as long as they were Florida residents upon entering the military, after a measure was approved by voters by a margin of 78 to 22

·         27 out of 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 78 out of 81 House Republicans (there were zero “nay” votes from Republicans or Democrats)




·         Commonly referred to as the “smart cap” amendment and modeled after Colorado’s “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” - replaces the existing state revenue limitation (which is based on personal income growth) with a new system based on inflation and population changes

·         Opponents argue that Florida already has a revenue cap, but proponents say this will make it more difficult to raise taxes

·         Bill was filed by Precourt in the House & the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax (chairman Bogdanoff)

·         26 out of 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 78 out of 81 House Republicans

·         Florida's fiscally conservative Senate wants to leave its mark in the Constitution by more tightly capping the amount of taxes the state could collect in any given year – Haridopolos has tried to pass such a measure since being elected to the Legislature a decade ago but without success until now

·         Rep. Precourt has said that “we did not have the fiscal discipline to not spend the money when it showed up in the good times, when we had lots of revenue rolling in.  That's not responsible behavior.”




·         This amendment is an attempt to reduce inequities produced by Florida’s current tax system, particularly that which resulted from the Save Our Homes amendment

·         24 out of 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 80 out of 81 House Republicans – bipartisan support, with half of the Democrats in the Legislature also voting in favor

·         Rep. Dorworth was the bill’s main sponsor, and backed by Florida’s real-estate industry

·         If approved, it would give breaks to first-time homesteaders, cut the cap on annual growth of assessed value from 10% to 5% for owners of non-homestead residential rental & commercial property, and repeal a provision for owners with homestead exemptions that lets assessed values rise even when property values fall

·         Advocates say it would lift the Florida economy by increasing home sales and encouraging businesses to invest and hire in Florida, by making property taxes more manageable without huge yearly increases

·         Property owners who don’t claim a homestead exemption (including investors, businesses, and owners of rentals & second homes) are big beneficiaries

·         Over a 10-year period, Florida TaxWatch estimates that this amendment would result in the creation of approximately 19,483 private, non-farm jobs.  Their model also estimates that Florida GDP would increase by approximately $928.65 million, and personal income would increase by more than $5.3 billion.  Additionally, they estimate between 319,861 and 383,810 additional home sales.



Amendment #5 - STATE COURTS

·         This amendment will add a requirement that a Supreme Court justice nominated by the Governor must be confirmed by the Senate to take office

·         If the Senate votes to reject the confirmation, the Nominating Commission must reconvene and give a new list of justices to the Governor

·         The Supreme Court adopts rules for practice/procedure in lower courts.  This amendment provides for the repeal of a Supreme Court rule by general law & simple majority, instead of a two-thirds vote of the Legislature

·         This amendment allows the Speaker of the House to request to review all investigative files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which are currently confidential

·         Sponsored by Rep. Eisnaugle

·         The Senate could not get the votes needed to pass the House’s preferred version of the bill, which would have split the Supreme Court into civil and criminal divisions, and added more justices

·         Critics have said that this is political payback for Court rulings that removed several proposed (and Legislature approved) constitutional amendments from the November 2010 ballot

·         24 out of 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 80 out of 81 House Republicans




·         The purpose of this amendment is to strengthen parental rights by allowing future legislation to restore parental consent if a child seeks an abortion, and it prohibits the spending of public funds for abortion or for health care benefits coverage that includes the coverage of abortion

·         The provisions of the amendment affirm the current Federal law (Hyde Amendment) regarding taxpayer funding of abortion

·         Does not apply to federally required expenditures, abortions due to pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or cases including a life-endangering, physical condition arising from the pregnancy which would place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed

·         Limited health care dollars should be allotted to those with the greatest need instead of paying for abortions

·         Today, a child can have an abortion without parental consent – restoration of parental consent will enable a family to decide together such a personal decision about a life-changing procedure with government interference

·         26 out of 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 76 out of 81 House Republicans

·         The majority of Americans believe it is wrong for government to use public funds for abortion – a November 2009 poll showed that 61% were opposed to using public funds when a woman cannot afford the abortion, and a September 2009 poll found that 55% agree that it would be wrong for the government to pay for abortions

·         Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly supports this amendment to protect taxpayers and respect parental rights

·         Please visit www.SayYesOn6.com for more information



Amendment #8 - RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

·         This amendment preserves time-honored public-private partnerships between taxpayers, government, social service organizations, and those who rely on the social services for the common good that many of us take for granted

·         This amendment eliminates discrimination against churches and religious institutions that provide social services, allowing those organizations to work with government to meet important community needs

·         Taxpayers benefit from more efficient and higher quality service delivery by religiously-motivated and private organizations at a lower cost

·         Florida’s constitution currently includes the 19th century, anti-Catholic, Blaine Amendment language (which had sought to amend the U.S. Constitution to effectively shut down Catholic schools), excludes religious organizations from government support, and discriminates against religious providers of social services simply because they are religious

·         This amendment will not infringe on the so-called separation of church and state, and does not promote any group over another – religious organizations that provide secular services should receive equal treatment as secular institutions that are eligible for state-funding for similar programs

·         Religious organizations and individuals have an equal and rightful place in the public square and should not have their freedom to participate there limited simply because they are religious – Floridians deserve the opportunity to benefit from programs with a secular purpose run by religious entities

·         Sponsored by Rep. Plakon and Rep. Precourt

·         25 out of 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 78 out of 81 House Republicans

·         Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly support this amendment for religious freedom and non-discrimination

·         Please visit www.SayYesOn8.com for more information




·         This amendment will allow the Legislature to provide ad valorem homestead property tax relief to:

o   the surviving spouse of a military veteran who died from service-connected causes while on active duty as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces

o   the surviving spouse of a first responder who died in the line of duty

·         First responders includes law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics

·         The amount of tax relief can equal the total amount or a portion of the ad valorem homestead property tax owed

·         Sponsored by Representative Harrison

·         The Revenue Estimating Conference estimates that the estimated statewide impact would be annual reductions in school tax revenues of $300,000, and annual reductions in local government non-school tax revenues of $300,000

·         All 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 77 out of 81 House Republicans (there were zero “nay” votes from Republicans or Democrats)




·         This amendment will provide an additional exemption from ad valorem taxes on the assessed value of tangible personal property valued between $25,000 and $50,000 – currently the Constitution allows for a $25,000 exemption

·         The Revenue Estimating Conference estimates that the provision would have a negative impact on local government revenues of $20.1 million

·         Persons owning tangible personal property with an assessed value < $50,000 could see a reduction in their taxes

·         This amendment will also authorize the legislature to permit counties/municipalities to provide additional exemptions from ad valorem taxation for tangible personal property

·         Sponsored by Representative Eisnaugle

·         All 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 80 out of 81 House Republicans




·         This amendment would authorize the Legislature, by general law, to allow counties and municipalities to grant an additional homestead tax exemption equal to the assessed value of homestead property to certain low income seniors

·         To be eligible for the additional homestead exemption:

o   the county or municipality must have granted the exemption by ordinance

o   the property must have a market value of < $250,000

o   the owner must have title to the property, and maintained permanent residence there for > 25 years

o   the owner must be > 65 years old, with an annual household income < $27,030

·         If all counties and municipalities offering the current low-income senior exemption also pass the required ordinances to offer this additional homestead exemption, the Revenue Estimating Conference estimates a negative local government revenue impact of $9.1 million in 2014-15 and $9.4 million in 2015-16 (assuming current millage rates).

·         Sponsored by Representative Oliva

·         All 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 79 out of 81 House Republicans (there were zero “nay” votes from Republicans or Democrats)




·         State-level government of the public universities (the State University System) is provided by the Board of Governors and the Legislature

·         The Board of Governors is comprised of 17 members:

o   Commissioner of Education

o   Chair of the Advisory Council of Faculty Senates

o   14 members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate

o   Florida Student Association president (student member)

·         This amendment requires the Board of Governors to create the new council of State University System student body presidents, regardless of whether their university pays membership dues to the Florida Student Association

·         This amendment would remove the Florida Student Association president as the student member of the Board of Governors, and replace that member with the chair of the newly created council of student body presidents

·         Currently, Florida State University does not pay the FSA dues and is the only public university that is not an active FSA member, and FSU’s student body president could never be on the Board of Governors

·         Sponsored by Representative Gaetz

·         26 out of 28 Senate Republicans voted in favor, and 78 out of 81 House Republicans

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mr. Empric Goes to Washington

I was privileged to win a scholarship from Americans for Prosperity Florida to attend the AFP Foundation’s 6th annual Defending the American Dream® Summit in Washington, DC from August 2nd to 4th.  I enjoyed the three days of education, training, discussions, and networking with conservative activists, and I will definitely consider attending future Summits.

The Summit was held at the Washington Hilton Hotel – the infamous site of John Hinckley, Jr.’s assassination attempt of Ronald Reagan in 1981.  Here are some photos that I took of the site of Hinckley’s attempt as it looks today, side-by-side with a montage of photos from 31 years ago.  I was surprised that there wasn’t some kind of acknowledgement of the event, like a plaque or sign.



I flew up to Washington, DC first thing in the morning on Thursday, and scheduled a free tour of the Capitol with my representative’s office (Congressman Daniel Webster, FL-8).  My current employer, Manhattan Construction, built the new Visitor Center underground on the east side of the Capitol, which opened just prior to Barack Obama’s inauguration.


For me, one of the highlights of the Capitol tour was the opportunity to have my photo taken beside the new bronze statue of Reagan in the Rotunda.  Pieces of the Berlin Wall are embedded in the statue, symbolizing Reagan’s defeat of communism.


Towards the end of the tour, I was in the House gallery when Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan entered, but mistakenly (in hindsight) left while Sander Levin was blathering about tax cuts for the rich instead of waiting for 15 minutes to see Ryan deliver this great speech:

After leaving the Capitol, I walked across the street to the Supreme Court Building for a courtroom lecture by one of the trained docents, before making a three mile walk back to my hotel at Dupont Circle - via the White House.

AFP Florida hosted a Happy Hour event on Thursday afternoon and a continental breakfast on Friday morning before the Summit began.  After breakfast on Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Biundo, who served as Rick Santorum’s campaign manager during the Republican primaries and now works as Deputy Coalitions Director for the Romney campaign.


Subsequently, I attended a breakout session entitled “Progressive Practices: Exposing & Combating the Left’s Tactics,” which was moderated by AFP Florida’s State Director Slade O’Brien, and included Anita Moncrief, James O’Keefe and John Fund.  The session focused on voter fraud, government incompetence in our election system, and using the truth of video tape to expose what the progressives are doing.


After this breakout session, AFP sponsored a round-trip shuttle bus to the “Hands Off My Health Care:  Rally to Repeal” demonstration that they hosted on Capitol Hill.


When we returned to the Hilton, they held the Opening General Session which included Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson and author Arthur Brooks.

In the afternoon, I attended two more breakout sessions:
  • RightOnline:  Advanced Social Media Techniques,” which was moderated by AFP Washington’s State Director Nansen Malin, and featuring Michelle Malkin
  • Tomorrow’s Leaders:  How Young Conservatives are Shaping America,” which was moderated by AFP Virginia’s State Director Audrey Jackson, and featuring Katie Pavlich
On Friday evening, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was honored with the George Washington Award during the “Tribute to Ronald Reagan” dinner, and afterwards I drank too much Russian vodka with my new friends:  Abigail MacIver (AFP Florida’s Director of Policy & External Affairs) and Jessica Lee (AFP Florida’s Operations & Marketing Manager).


On Saturday morning, while battling a hangover and dehydration from the previous night’s socializing, I listened to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and media personality Laura Ingraham at the Morning General Session.  Bondi was brought on stage with the University of Florida fight song playing, which brought a smile to this Gator’s face.


For Breakout Session #4, I was fortunate to screen the new documentary based on the work of Dinesh D’Souza, 2016: Obama’s America.  D’Souza investigates Obama’s motivations and inner compass -- “the dreams from his father” -- and finds that the theory of Obama as a typical, big government, European-style socialist is inadequate to explain his policies.  D’Souza realizes that we should study Obama’s own writings to see how he stresses the importance of his philandering polygamist and Kenyan socialist father to his identity.

The anti-colonialism cause promoted by his father, a radical leftist struggle of the Third World to be free from the rich Western countries that take advantage of them, defines Obama’s vision of capitalism and free markets as plunder, with the rich oppressing the poor and prospering at the expense of others.  Christian Toto at Breitbart.com reviews the movie here, and embedded below is the trailer for the movie, which I highly recommend when it comes to your town:

After the movie, I attended a final breakout session entitled “How Government Spending is Driving Our Debt,” a wonky discussion moderated by AFP’s Policy Director James Valvo, and included James Wallner, Dan Mitchell, and Russ Vought.  The consensus of the panel was very clear:  spending is the disease, and deficits are the symptom.  The only viable solution is to cut spending while avoiding the seduction of accepting a tax increase.  The burden is on activists to keep pressure on Republicans to stay committed to cutting spending, and to require accountability from politicians to do the right thing. 


The Summit concluded with a fantastic Closing General Session featuring my favorite talk-show host, Mark Levin.  I just finished reading “Ameritopia” a few weeks ago, and I devotedly listen to Levin’s radio show via podcast every day.

All in all, it was a great three day trip to Washington, DC, which would have only been better if my wife and children had been able to make the trip too.

Monday, July 9, 2012

17 Weeks To Go – “Tied” in Swing States

Six months ago, on the day of the New Hampshire primary and one week after the Iowa caucus, I predicted that the unknown Republican nominee would win in November by a 282-256 margin.

There are 12 swing states, all of which were won by Barack Obama in 2008, with a total of 151 electoral votes - Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In the other 38 states and the District of Columbia, if we assume that Indiana's 11 electoral votes and Nebraska's 2nd congressional district flip from Obama to Mitt Romney, and if both parties win the same states that they won in 2008, then Obama would lead Romney by 196 to 191 before the votes are counted in the 12 swing states above.

I think that Romney will win 91 out of the 151 electoral votes in these 12 swing states, flipping 6 states (Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin). To win the election with 270 electoral votes, he would only need 79 out of 151.

After an early bombardment of negative television ads by both parties in the battleground states, Obama is leading Romney by just 2% (47% to 45%), which is within the 4% margin of error. For all intents and purposes, the race in the 12 swing states is "tied," according to USA Today/Gallup polling of 1,200 registered voters during the last week of June.

Besides the bottom-line takeaway from Susan Page's report in USA TODAY, there are a couple of other interesting results from the polling. Even though the number of voters who change their views based on television ads is very small, it's disappointing to see that Obama is "beating" Romney with advertising. The good news is that the voters in these 12 critical states are enthusiastic about voting, and Republican enthusiasm is increasing while Democratic enthusiasm is decreasing.

More than three of four voters in the battlegrounds say they've seen campaign ads on TV over the past month. They're more likely to recall the negative ones, which have included a barrage attacking the president's stewardship of the economy and depicting Romney as a heartless corporate executive.

Only 8% acknowledge the ads changed their minds about a candidate, for better or worse, though analysts say the actual number is probably higher because some voters don't want to admit or may not even realize their views were affected. Obama leads among those voters nearly 5-to-1.

Swing-state voters are a bit more enthusiastic about voting this year than those living elsewhere, perhaps reflecting the attention they're given in TV ads and candidate visits. Nearly half of those in battleground states are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president this year. Just under three in 10 aren't keen about it.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 30% say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting, up 5 points from the spring.

Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 23% are extremely enthusiastic, a 3-point dip from the last survey.