Amendment 7: What you need to know

By: Joshua Ceballos/News Director

Voting “yes” on Amendment 7 will make it a little harder for the University to raise fees in the future… among other things.

Amendment 7 on Florida’s November ballot is a bundle of three amendments to the State’s constitution. Voting “yes” on the amendment will say yes to requiring the Board of Governors or the Board of Trustees at all state universities to obtain a supermajority in order to allow the raising of student fees; it will require the State to provide death benefits for the relatives of deceased first responders, and it will create a state college system much like the State University System, but for community colleges.

As of right now, in order to raise the fees that students pay at the University, a committee is made to assess the need for fee changes, they have public meetings with student input, and they submit their recommendations for fee changes to the BoT, according to Kenneth Jessel, senior vice president for Finance and Administration at the University.

The BoT currently only needs a majority vote of half plus one to ratify an increase in fees, but if this new amendment passes, they would need two-thirds of the trustees to vote yes, which means nine out of the 13 members of the Board.

Mark Sarnoff, member of the BoT, told Student Media that he is against supermajorities in any circumstance for budgeting, and that he is personally opposed to this amendment’s piece about fees.

“I am not in favor of raising fees, but if an emergency were to come up, like a hurricane, and you need to make a budget amendment, you’re out of a budget if you can’t get a supermajority,” said Sarnoff.

Sarnoff said that requiring a supermajority ties the hands of the people chosen to govern, and that simple majorities are a good standard.

Emery Gainey, one of 37 commissioners to the 2018 Constitutional Revision Commission, told Student Media that supermajority ensures that there’s a good reason to change fees so that they remain reasonable and so people can afford to attend college.

“It shouldn’t slow anything down because if the right people are appointed to govern, they will see the same need collectively,” said Gainey.

Gainey, who worked for the sheriff’s office in Alachua county for 25 years, said that he feels very strongly about the portion of the amendment referring to first responders.

“I am unequivocally tied to it, I’ve worked 36 years in total in law enforcement, and I know firsthand the seriousness of the fact that these men and women put their life on the line, and the potential for serious injury or death,” said Gainey.

Gainey said that the Florida statutes already provides for the support to families of first responders, but this piece of the amendment would do two things: add EMT’s, paramedics and soldiers stationed in Florida to the definition of “first responder,” and also ensure that this support is spelled out in the Constitution, not just in legislation.

“This amendment would put it in the Constitution to ensure that these men and women killed in the line of duty, that their families receive immediate benefits,” said Gainey.

The families of soldiers and military personnel do also get financial support after the death of their loved ones from the federal government, but the support that Florida provides will go above and beyond that, according to Gainey. This would give families an added cushion to help them find employment after the loss of their spouse or parent.

The money provided for death benefits would come from the entity that employed the individual, according to Gainey, so if a Miami-Dade County police officer were to die in the line of duty, the benefits to their family would come from the Miami-Dade Police Department.

As for the state college system, Gainey said that he believes the State University System has worked so well in the past years, that community colleges in the state, like Miami Dade College, can benefit greatly from a similar system.

All of these amendments, according to Gainey, are only the constitutional framework, and that the specifics for how they would be executed would be decided by new statutes in the State legislature.


Feature Image courtesy of Unsplash

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