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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Lots of issues on Nov. 2 ballot; early ballot study urged

There is much more to the Nov. 4 ballot than the issues of choosing a president, U.S. senator, local congress member or other contentious races.

Of course, Anna Maria City electors will have a choice between incumbent Mayor SueLynn and former Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh.

And Holmes Beach voters will have two picks of four candidates for the city commission: incumbent Commissioners Sandy Haas-Martens and Roger Lutz, as well as former Mayor and Commissioner Pat Geyer and David L. Zaccagnino. Profiles of the candidates for the Island seats are included in this edition of The Islander.

Islanders also have a third chance this year to offer their vote to support or reject a proposal by the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District to implement a .5-mill property tax levy for all property in its district area, which includes the Island, Cortez and West Bradenton. The pros and cons of that matter are also outlined in this edition.

There may be some unfamiliar names on the ballot, though.

Presidential candidates include the familiar George W. Bush-Dick Cheney ticket of the Republican Party, and the John F. Kerry-John Edwards offer for the Democrats.

There are also presidential choices for the Constitutional Party of Florida's Michael A. Peroutka-Chuck Baldwin; the Libertarian Party ticket's Michael Badnarik-Richard V. Campagna; the Green Party's David Cobb-Patricia LaMarche; Florida Socialist Workers Party candidates James Harris-Margaret Trowe; the Socialist Party choices Walter F. Brown-Mary Alice Herbert; and the Reform Party ticket of Ralph Nader and Peter Miguel Camejo.

For U.S. Senate, in a seat vacated by Sen. Bob Graham-Dem., the choice is between Republican Mel Martinez, former secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, and Democrat Betty Castor, a former Florida Senator and president of the University of South Florida.

Also running for U.S. Senate representing the Veterans Party of Florida is Dennis F. Bradley.

The hotly contested seat for Congress, District 13, sees incumbent Republican Katherine Harris face Democrat Jan Schneider.

In the Florida House of Representatives, District 68 - which includes Anna Maria Island - incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Galvano is facing write-in candidate Jon Kleiber.

Two countywide races will also be before Island voters Tuesday. Incumbent Sheriff Charlie Wells, a Republican, is challenged by Democrat Kevin F. Murphy.

And incumbent Republic Clerk of Courts R.B. "Chips" Shore is facing nonpartisan challenger Dan O'Connell.

In the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, Group 2, nonpartisan candidates Diana Moreland and Susan Chapman seek the vacant judge's seat on the ballot.

There are also two Florida Supreme Court retentions on the ballot, for Kenneth B. Bell and Raoul G. Cantero III, as well as retentions of five District Court of Appeals, Second District, judges: Charles T. Canady, Patricia J. Kelly, Steven T. Northcutt, Craig C. Villanti, and Douglas A. Wallace.

But what will undoubtedly take up the bulk of the time in the polls will be the review of the eight Florida Constitutional amendments on the ballot.

In summary, those questions are:

Amendment 1, parental notification by minors to terminate pregnancy.
Proposed by the Florida Legislature, the ballot question proposes an amendment that would require parents or guardians of minors to be notified prior to their minor child's termination of a pregnancy. Proponents argue that it is critical for parents to be involved in helping their daughters make important decisions regarding pregnancy. Opponents state the amendment bucks a fundamental right to privacy.

Amendment 2, amendment deadline changes offered by initiative.
Proposed by the Florida Legislature, this question would have initiative-driven amendments to the Constitution filed by Feb. 1 of the year it is to appear on the ballot, and require the Florida Supreme Court to render an advisory opinion on the issue by April 1. Proponents said it would allow voters more time to educate themselves on the questions on the ballot. Opponents said it would make initiative amendments more difficult to place on the ballot.

Amendment 3, medical liability compensation.
Proposed by Citizens For a Fair Share Inc., this amendment would provide that an injured claimant who enters into a contingency fee agreement with an attorney in a claim for medical liability is entitled to no less than 70 percent of the first $250,000 in damages and 90 percent of damages in excess of $250,000. Proponents argue that it will achieve reforms in the way of caps on attorney fees. Opponents said the amendment would make the state's healthcare system less safe and limit patient's rights to the courts.

Amendment 4, authorization of Miami-Dade and Broward County voters to approve slot machines in parimutuel sites in those counties.
Proposed by Floridians For a Level Playing Field, this amendment would allow those two counties to hold referenda to allow slot machines in established parimutual facilities, and allows the state to tax the machines with the funds generated supplementing, not replacing, education funding. Proponents argue that the voters in those counties should be allowed to decide if they want the slots; opponents said the amendment would increase crime and have severe social cost consequences.

Amendment 5, minimum wage.
Proposed by Floridians For All Political Action Committee, this amendment would increase minimum wage in Florida to $6.15 per hour and provide annual increases based on inflation. Proponents said the increase would amount to about 20 percent of the minimum federal levels and tie the subsequent increases into consumer price indexing. Opponents said the amendment could cost Floridians their jobs, healthcare benefits and retirement funds.

Amendment 6, repeal of high speed rail.
Sponsored by Derail the Bullet Train, this amendment, if approved, would reverse an earlier Constitutional amendment to create a high-speed rail service in the state, which is estimated to cost upwards of $25 billion during the next 30 years. Proponents said the funds, which would be earmarked for the train system, could be used for other transportation, education or health care issues. Opponents said the state needs a "bullet-train" network to reduce highway overcrowding and would require less government subsidies than highways or airports.

Amendment 7, patients' right to know of adverse medical incidents.
Sponsored through a citizen initiative, this amendment would overrule current law that restricts information available to patients regarding adverse medical incidents and malpractice matters. Proponents said the amendment would allow patients to have information about their doctor's malpractice incidents and provide more data on doctors and hospitals. Opponents said physicians would no longer be able to review other doctors, and such reviews have helped reduce errors and improve patients' quality of care.

Amendment 8, protection from repeated medical malpractice.
Sponsored by Floridians For Patient Protection, this amendment would call for physicians who have committed three or more incidents of medical malpractice to no longer be licensed to practice medicine in the state. Proponents said the amendment would stop "bad docs" from practicing medicine. Opponents said doctors practicing in "high risk" fields such as ob-gyn, neurosurgeons or trauma surgeons will leave the state, affecting patients' access to quality healthcare.

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