TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida voters this fall could decide the fate of 12 ballot proposals that deal with issues ranging from limiting taxes to banning greyhound racing.
Behind the scenes, businesses and organizations have already spent tens of millions of dollars as they try to pass -- or defeat -- some of the proposed constitutional amendments.
Here are snapshots of five ballot proposals that are drawing big chunks of money:
MARSY’S LAW: Part of a national movement to boost crime victims’ rights, Amendment 6 on the November ballot had already drawn $30.37 million as of Sept. 14.
The amendment, put on the ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, is dubbed “Marsy’s Law” and is rooted in the 1983 death of a California woman, Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend. Marsy Nicholas’ brother, Henry, is the co-founder of Broadcom Corp. and has spearheaded the Marsy’s Law movement.
Almost all of the money backing the Florida measure, $30.045 million, has come from the national Marsy’s Law for All Foundation, according to the state Division of Elections website. Another $325,000 has come from Henry Nicholas.
GAMBLING BATTLE: Amendment 3, which is designed to make it harder to expand gambling in the state, has drawn millions of dollars from supporters and opponents. Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have combined to contribute $26.43 million to the political committee Voters In Charge, which led a petition drive to get the measure on the ballot and is steering efforts to pass it.
Disney is a longtime opponent of casino gambling, while the Seminole Tribe already operates lucrative casinos in Florida. The ballot proposal would change the Florida Constitution and give voters the "exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling" in the state. If approved, it would require voter approval of casino-style games in the future and effectively reduce the power of the Legislature and governor to decide gambling-related issues.
The gambling industry, however, has started funneling money to at least two political committees to fight the ballot proposal. One of those committees, known as Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3, had raised $3.52 million as of Sept. 14, while another, known as Vote NO on 3, had raised $650,000.
FELONS VOTING: Restoring the voting rights of felons has long been a contentious legal and political issue in Florida.
But buoyed by money from the American Civil Liberties Union and a series of other large donors, the political committee Floridians for a Fair Democracy is seeking to pass a proposed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 4, that would automatically restore the rights of most felons after they serve their sentences, complete parole or probation and pay restitution. The amendment would not apply to people convicted of murder or sexual offenses.
Floridians for a Fair Democracy had raised $14.4 million as of Sept. 14 to get the measure on the ballot and to try to pass it. The ACLU had contributed $3.8 million in cash and had made hundreds of thousands of dollars in in-kind contributions.
TAX CAP CONTINUATION: Voters in 2008 approved a constitutional amendment that placed a 10 percent cap on annual increases in assessed values of non-homestead properties, such as commercial properties. But the limit will expire Jan. 1 unless it is extended by voters in November through the passage of Amendment 2.
Lawmakers placed Amendment 2 on the ballot, along with two other measures -- Amendment 1 and Amendment 5 -- aimed at cutting or holding down taxes.
The industry group Florida Realtors is trying to make sure Amendment 2 passes. As of Sept. 14, the group had contributed $5.56 million to a political committee known as Amendment 2 is for Everybody, according to the Division of Election website.
GREYHOUND RACING: Animal-rights groups have tried for years to convince lawmakers to stop greyhound racing in Florida.
But unable to get legislation passed, they enlisted the support of the Constitution Revision Commission, which approved placing a measure on the ballot designed to ban dog racing at pari-mutuel facilities.
An effort known as the Committee to Protect Dogs had raised about $2.3 million as of Sept. 14 to bolster efforts to pass the amendment, with $1.5 million coming from the Doris Day Animal League. The group Grey2K USA had added more than $480,000.