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Mazurkiewicz addresses constitutional amendments

By Staff | Oct 17, 2018

When City Manager John Szerlag couldn’t attend the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association dinner meeting Thursday at Palmetto Pines Country Club due to a scheduling conflict, former mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz filled in and discussed an election issue many people don’t have much of a grasp of, the numerous constitutional amendments and the GO bond referendum on the ballot.

Mazurkiewicz warned that not only do many of the amendments carry riders that have little or nothing to do with each other, but voting yes or no to them could have unintended consequences.

There are 12 amendments on the ballot, several of which are in danger of being shot down by the courts. Mazurkiewicz said that many of these issues should be for the Legislature to decide.

“I don’t like amendments. It has to be a real constitutional issue, not an issue the Legislature doesn’t have the political backbone to deal with or have the authority to handle,” Mazurkiewicz said.

The Constitutional Revision Committee, which meets every 20 years, had a lot to do with what got on the ballot this year, with one such meeting happening in Cape Coral this past spring.

Mazurkiewicz said this committee consisted of appointees with an agenda.

“The ballot questions they put together is indicative of an agenda rather than those who are interested in amending the constitution, the basic document of which we govern ourselves,” Mazurkiewicz said.

Many of the amendments are “bundled,” meaning that there are numerous items on a single amendment that have little or nothing to do with each other. For example, Amendment 9 prohibits offshore oil and gas drilling and vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces.

That and three other amendments (6, 7 and 11) are being considered to be taken off the ballot. The Florida Supreme Court will consider the fate of those amendments, Mazurkiewicz said.

There are also unintended consequences with these amendments, Mazurkiewicz said. He gave the example of two years ago when voters approved of limiting class sizes at schools to 18. It was a great idea on paper, but nobody knew the impact it would have financially.

“It blew up school budgets throughout Florida, and we’re dealing with that now with the half-cent sales tax to build classrooms,” Mazurkiewicz said. “There’s no magic to the number 18. We can get 24 students before it gets crazy. That’s a third less classrooms.”

On this ballot, there are amendments that require a supermajority of votes, such as Amendment 5, which would require a supermajority to impose state taxes or fees.

Mazurkiewicz said this amendment got on the ballot due to the governor’s fear of Democrats taking over the state.

“Who gets the power when you create a two-thirds majority to pass legislation? The minority. You can have 65 percent in favor and still lose,” Mazurkiewicz said. “The minority will not allow the will of the majority to move forward.”

Regarding the upcoming $60 million parks referendum, Mazurkiewicz said while it sounds good that the neighbors will get to decide what goes into the parks, it is also a problem if something you want is something the rest of your neighbors don’t.

Mazurkiewicz supports the GO Bond, as well as the half-cent sales tax in Lee County to support the building and maintenance of schools.

Mayor Joe Coviello addressed the GO Bond, what would be required and how it would benefit the CCCIA and the community.

He got pushback from Annette Carrasquillo, who said while parks are important, there was no specificity to the plan.

Mazurkiewicz and Coviello objected, saying there was potential specificity, it would be up to the neighborhood to see what gets put in. Coviello gave a specific plan for the Yacht Club.

“I beg to differ. There are plans that you can see and it will have no impact on impact fees,” Coviello said. “The neighbors will have their say on what they want to see in their park.”