Buried deep in the War-and-Peace-length tome that is this November's Florida ballot, voters will find a question asking if a ban on offshore drilling and a ban on vaping should be codified in the state constitution.
Yup, Amendment 9 is the bundled amendment bringing together e-cigarettes and oil rigs.
In its own words:
Article II, Section 7
Article X, Section 20
Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.
Amendment 9 came out of Florida's Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC), which convenes every 20 years to suggest ways to streamline and update state laws. The CRC inevitably ends up with loads of suggestions for voters. And a lot of those suggestions get bundled together under sometimes loose and controversial themes.
The framers of Amendment 9 have said both of these proposals intersect with health and the environment. A lawsuit claiming they didn't belong together made its way to the Florida Supreme Court. And the week before early voting started, the court ruled Amendment 9 could stay on the ballot.
(The ballots, by the way, were already printed with Amendment 9 on them.)
There's been a lot of drama around this amendment, so we leaned into the theatrics of the whole thing and made a radio playlet out of it. You can listen here:
Seeing as voters will have to weigh both elements of Amendment 9 at the same time, we asked some of the actors with stakes in it to lay out the cases for and against each piece.
AMENDMENT 9, ACT I: THE DRILLING BAN
The first half of Amendment 9 is the part that bans drilling off of Florida's coast.
There is currently a federal moratorium—the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act—on drilling that includes the state's coastal waters. Regulation got tighter after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 people on a rig and spilled millions of gallons of oil off Louisiana's coast and into Florida's waters.
Then last year, the president issued an executive order encouraging more oil exploration off the coasts.
Amendment 9 would, no matter what the feds do, prevent drilling in state waters, which extend a little more than 3 miles off the Gulf Coast and 10 miles off the Atlantic Coast.
- Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, explains why his organization hopes Floridians will vote yes on Amendment 9 because of the drilling ban:
"We would like to vote for Amendment 9 because it helps protect Florida's water quality in our marine waters.
We all experienced the Deepwater Horizon a few years ago—that was many miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. Could you imagine how catastrophic something like that would be in Florida's coastal waters? If you had a problem, or a spill, you wouldn't have time to react to it.
Our goal is so that we have healthy fish and wildlife populations and habitat. And that's a challenge in this state that has tremendous growth pressure. So the last thing we need is industrialization of our coastal economy. It needs to stay in nature-based economy."
- Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketing Association, which represents over 7,000 convenience stores that sell gasoline, makes the case to vote no on Amendment 9, because of the drilling ban:
"We think as long as the drilling is done responsibly, we are for the drilling. We need gas and diesel fuel to move products and people out of the state.
We had Hurricane Irma that came through and [evacuation orders were given to] six and a half million people. They left on gasoline and diesel fuel.
And you know if everybody went out in the banned drilling, we wouldn't have any product we wouldn't have energy.
People want to say, well they can do solar or they can do wind. As you know, we're in the middle of recovering from Michael right now… those solar panels would be blown away and then what you have left? You don't have any power. "
AMENDMENT 9, ACT II: THE VAPING BAN
The second half of Amendment 9 would extend Florida's tobacco smoking ban to include vaping.
Florida has rules on the books that prohibit smoking in most workplaces and a lot of public places. The Florida Clean Indoor Air Act of 1985 created rules about smoke-free public spaces and work places, as well as designated smoking areas. Then in 2002, Floridians voted to ban smoking in indoor workplaces.
Amendment 9 would add constitutional language about e-cigarettes—a technology that didn't exist when Florida started passing these laws in the '80s—to the smoking rules.
- Donna Lundy, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, lays out the case for voting yes on Amendment 9, because of the vaping ban:
"The case for Amendment 9 basically comes down to: do you want to breathe fresh air in public places, public indoor places?
No one should have to choose between earning a paycheck and breathing clean air.
When you eat out at a restaurant, do you want to enjoy your food and not have to be bothered by someone who might be smoking an electronic cigarette?
We know that some of the chemicals in electronic cigarettes can be quite harmful if ingested firsthand and/or secondhand.
This has the potential to save tax dollars millions of dollars by not exposing people to potential harm from the vapors that are emitted. So this is a potential win-win for all of us."
- The case for voting no on Amendment 9, as explained by Alex Clark, CEO of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association:
"First of all individual business owners should have the right to choose whether they allow vaping or not.
The risk to bystanders from secondhand exposure to vapor product is, I would say, nominal.
We actually feel that there's a public health benefit. It demonstrates to smokers that there's a product out there that has some sort of advantage over smoking they don't have to step outside. They don't have to feel isolated. They can stay indoors and be with their community and enjoy using nicotine.
There's a visual component in that smokers can see people vaping and become curious about the products, and those people who smoke are more likely to try vaping, make quit attempts and improve their health."
AMENDMENT 9, ACT III: YOU DECIDE
There is a third act in the Amendment 9 saga, the one that plays out in the voting booth.
Remember, Amendment 9 would ban offshore drilling and vaping in Florida; the vote is either yes to all of it or no to all of it. And in Florida, any constitutional ballot item needs a 60 percent majority to pass.
So to paraphrase Shakespeare at the end of Hamlet: Go, bid the voters vote.