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2016 Constitutional Amendments – Yea or Nay?

Well, I’ve been asked about the four ballot questions on this year’s ballot and how I’m voting on them. Y’vote-2016all are pretty intelligent folks and will make up your own minds, but since I got asked, I’ll give it a go.

Question 1: Basically provides that the State can take over “chronically failing” schools. While many see this as unneeded intervention in failing schools by the all-powerful State, I see it as giving everyone an equal chance. Let’s say you are growing up in Corn County (fictitious for obvious reasons). The schools are horrible. Little money, few resources and the school building is 112 years old, along with some of the teachers. The school board is composed of folks, not a one of whom has a high school degree but they pledge every year to keep cutting school taxes. On a scale of 1-10, it’s a 1, it just sucks. Why does a child in that county get stuck with a bad education? Because of corruption, incompetence or indifference. But no matter the reason, that child doesn’t have a fighting chance. This proposed law, which might need a tweak here and there, is a good faith attempt to allow the State to intervene and fix that school. I know many school associated folks are against it, but I figure, how can this law make it worse? It’s an effort to make things better. Only 20 schools a year can be added to this program, and a total cap of 100 schools is in place. Let’s try it, for the sake of those kids. This does require changing the Constitution.

I’m voting YES on #1.

Question 2. Generally, provides for generating revenue for the “Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children’s Fund.” Who can be against that? Me, sorta. The law provides for fining criminals, you know, people who actually commit crimes that harm children. That’s cool with me. But then it goes on to charge $5,000 to “adult establishments” annually. That’s simply a tax increase. I’m opposed to tax increases in general, but particularly when they are illogical to the goal sought. It’s just too easy to assume that adult establishments are responsible for sexual assaults on children. In my years as judge and district attorney, I found that drugs, alcohol, bad genes, bad upbringing, and bad character are far more likely to be the impetus behind child sexual assault. Let’s fine drugstores, liquor stores, churches and everyone who has a baby instead. At least it’d be a tax more rationale than this one. The Legislature could do this without “permission” from us, so that’s a clue it’s an attempt to get a tax increase with voter approval.

I’m voting NO on #2.

Question 3. Eliminates the current Judicial Qualifications Commission and replaces it with something new, that will allegedly do the same thing. I’ve felt like the JQC was getting way too big for its britches for several years now. Sure, removing bad judges is a good idea. I’m all for that. The process was confounding and secretive, and not especially comporting with due process for the accused judge. The JQC was even telling judges how to run their courtrooms (like insisting that crying babies couldn’t be removed from court). Or that defendant’s in shorts and t-shirts are okay. If they had stuck to bad judges, they wouldn’t be in the crosshairs. I believe it became the stereotypical, overreaching government agency with little oversight and too much power. Many disagree with my view. Replace it and start over. It does require changing the Constitution.

I’m voting YES on #3.

Question 4. This one changes the current taxes of fireworks and directs it towards trauma centers, fire protection services and public safety. Who can be against public safety? Not me, for sure. But why can’t the Legislature just dedicate that fireworks money to those worthwhile causes and not change the Constitution? Because they don’t have the willpower (guts) to honor their public safety commitments, so this law makes them fund those programs. So taxes will be going up somewhere else since this money is now directed to these worthwhile causes. Obviously, this is another attempt to get voter approval for a tax increase down the road.

I’m voting NO on #4.

I’m not going to vote until next week, so tell me why I’m wrong on any of these.

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