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Florida defeats 8 right-wing constitutional amendments, delivers blow to governor

By staff |
November 7, 2012
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Tallahassee, FL - The people of Florida dealt a decisive blow to the right-wing agenda of Governor Rick Scott and the Republican legislature on Nov. 6. Voters defeated eight of the eleven constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot. Had they passed, it would have set the stage for more devastating budget cuts and anti-woman laws in the 2013 legislative session.

Amendment 3, which would have placed limits on state revenue and automatically triggered budget cuts to education and public sector workers, was defeated by 57.63% of voters. Similarly, 55.53% of voters struck down Amendment 8, which would have allowed charter schools and other private religious institutions to receive public funds.

Most surprising of all, however, was the 55.05% no vote on Amendment 6, which would have eroded women’s rights by restricting abortion access in Florida. Several other southern states have passed similar restrictions on women’s health care, but Florida activists tirelessly organized communities to defeat the amendment.

Jessica Schwartz, a student organizer with F-Word, a feminist activist group at Florida State University, said, “We tabled on campus, phone-banked and held trainings educating people about the effects of the amendment.” Countless activist groups across the state, like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Gainesville and Feminist Majority, joined Schwartz in standing outside of polling locations during early voting and on Election Day to urge voters to reject the right wing’s attack on women.

When asked about what this victory means for women in Florida, Schwartz said, “Politicians don’t have the increased capacity to restrict reproductive health services. We still don’t have public funding for abortion because of the Hyde Amendment already in place, but the part of the amendment making abortion not a constitutional right to privacy would have been detrimental to women.”

Florida’s constitution requires that amendments receive 60% of the vote in order to pass. Perhaps signaling the end of the notorious socially conservative voting base in Florida, Amendment 6 not only failed to gather the 60% of votes necessary to pass; a majority of voters knowingly rejected it.

Amendments 4, 5, 10, and 12 were also rejected by more than 50% of voters.

Amendment 12’s defeat, in particular, leaves the federative Florida Student Association (FSA) structure intact for independent student representation on the Board of Governors, which determines higher education policy for public universities. Had it passed, Amendment 12 would have allowed the Board of Governors to appoint the student representative on the Board.

“It’s a big blow to Rick Scott’s agenda in Florida that seeks to strip students of the only voice they have on the Board of Governors,” said Robbey Hayes, a senior at the University of Florida and an organizer with SDS.

“However, we know that we won’t win the fight against budget cuts and tuition hikes through a student representative on the Board of Governors. That battle will be won in the streets by the students themselves,” said Hayes.

The three amendments that did pass – 2, 9 and 11 – were minor tax exemptions given to veterans, spouses of first-responders and seniors respectively. They are not expected to significantly reduce state revenue.

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