This November, we will have the opportunity to cast our ballot and make critical decisions for the future of our state. Among the important choices we will make, we will be asked to vote on 13 amendments to the Florida Constitution. As you head to the ballot box, I am urging all to vote NO on Amendment 3.
At first glance, Amendment 3 seems as though it empowers Florida voters but that is the exact lie that the big-money backers behind the amendment would like us to believe. In fact, they are spending a whopping $30 million on misleading advertising. Instead of empowering voters, Amendment 3 actually restricts our voices and limits local control for the sake of big-moneyed interests over gambling in Florida.
You see, Amendment 3 was written to fool and confuse voters, and would actually take away our local control by stripping the avenues that communities currently have to address gaming. Today, if a community decides it wants a new casino and voters pass a local referendum, all it takes is approval from the legislature to make it happen. This amendment would undermine the ability for local communities to make those decisions, which presently happens through a local vote. If Amendment 3 passes, it would prohibit the legislature from abiding by the local will of the voters and require every voter in the state to decide. Expanding gaming in a local community would require voters statewide to weigh. So if a local community overwhelmingly wanted more gaming, they would have to petition voters hundreds of miles away and from all corners of the Sunshine State.
To make matters worse, Amendment 3 is also anti-schools and could cost Florida’s education system hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue and school funding. In fact, Amendment 3 could not only lose hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that currently funds education but it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue that would fund education. Our kids and our teachers deserve better. We cannot afford to lose critical education funding at a time when Republicans continue to cut public education funds, teachers are underpaid, and programs are being eliminated. We must invest and strengthen education instead of putting these dollars at risk because our children’s ability to reach their full potential depends on their education.
To be clear, voting NO on Amendment 3 does not mean that we are expanding gaming. It means we are empowering local communities to make those decisions that reflect the desires of their constituents. A blanket ban like Amendment 3 that risks hundreds of millions of dollars of funding that goes towards our education system and keeping our students safe, is not worth considering.
I am asking our community to vote no on Amendment 3, as well as all Floridians because we should respect the will of the people at the local level and we should not risk education funding.
Barbara Hecht Havenick is a University of Miami trustee.