Amendment 7

First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities

This is another one of those bizarre omnibus amendments crafted by the Constitution Revision Commission.

The amendment, which originated with the Constitution Revision Commission, reads:

Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.

It has three parts.

The first element of this amendment makes it mandatory that death benefits will be paid and certain educational expenses will be waived for survivors of first responders and military members who die while on the job. This is a good thing, but it’s also already granted via state and federal law, for the most part. The amendment would just establish it as a constitutional right, and would add paramedics, emergency technicians, and members of the U.S. military living in Florida. The amount of payments is still TBD.

The second element of the amendment affects how many votes a university fee increase needs to have in order to pass. Right now a simple majority of a university’s 13-member board of trustees and a simple majority from the state’s 17-member Board of Governors is all that is needed. If this amendment passes, that will increase to a supermajority of both bodies, making it harder to raise any university fees.

In regards to the third element of the amendment, about establishing the state college system as a constitutional entity, here’s the deal: the state constitution doesn’t recognize state colleges, aka community colleges, right now (although they are recognized in state law). If approved, it would basically just enshrine the college system in the constitution, including a statement of purpose and an explanation of the role of its various boards.

If you vote yes, you are doubling down on the state college system’s place in Florida, as well as the provision of death benefits and educational waivers to family members of first responders and military members who are killed on the job. Both are already provided in state law to varying degrees.

You are also raising the bar for raising university fees from a majority to a supermajority. This could limit fee increases for students (although tuition is not a part of this) and keep costs for them down, but it could also have implications for universities’ ability to cover costs. 

If you vote no, all of the above will remain the same.