Monday, October 08, 2012

Florida Constitutional Amendments

On the November election ballot, besides voting for your elected leaders will be 12 Constitutional Amendments to be voted on.  The following is a summation of each one, and eLauderhill News' recommendations:


Proposes a constitutional amendment to prohibit laws from compelling any Floridian/employer to purchase, obtain or provide health care coverage. This would allow a person/employer to purchase services directly from a health care provider and allow a health care provider to accept direct payment for services if a patient chooses to pay out of pocket.

INTENT:  To opt out of Federally Mandated Health Care

RECOMMENDATION:  NO.  Most likely is unconstitutional.  Even Republicans concede the federal Supremacy Clause prevents Florida from really doing anything to override a federal law.  "It will either sit there in our Constitution and not have any effect, or if someone saw some legal conflict, perhaps they could use this to challenge it," said Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican who sponsored the amendment in the House and saw the first draft tossed off the 2010 ballot by the state Supreme Court.


The proposed measure would allow for property tax discounts for disabled veterans. This bill explicitly extends the rights to ad valorem tax discounts, made available in 2010 to all veterans who were residents of Florida prior to their service, to all combat-disabled veterans currently living in Florida whether they were residents prior to their service or not.

RECOMMENDATION:  NO because it would provide benefits to non-Floridians before their service.  However if it was solely for Florida Residents prior to their service, it could have been recommended.


The measure proposes replacing existing revenue limits with a new limitation based on inflation and population change. Any funds that exceed the revenue limits would be placed in the state's "rainy day fund." Once the fund reaches 10% of the prior year's total budget the Florida State Legislature would be required to vote to either provide tax relief or reduce property taxes. The Florida version is Constitutional Amendment 3 on the November ballot. This would replace the current cap on allowed state revenue increases with a new cap.

INTENT:  To create a similar system to Colorado's TABOR restrictions to limit state and local governments revenue growth.  Interestingly, Colorado voters eventually rejected extension to TABOR in 2005 and it expired in 2010.  It has failed passage in 20 other states.

RECOMMENDATION:  NO.  Colorado voters decided that TABOR did not work and changed their mind after seeing what negative impacts it was creating in their state.  AARP and the League of Women Voters oppose it.  The proposed revenue cap could prevent government services from keeping up with demand.  Florida Business Watch opposes TABOR because of trickle-down effects to local governments. We oppose setting a new baseline at a point of diminished revenues and oppose setting budgets based on an arbitrary formula.  It is clear that wide group of diverse interest groups, both public and private are in opposition.  This is someone what rare to find such diverse groups in agreement.


This proposal does three things: 1) provides an additional homestead exemption for first time homebuyers up to the full value of their home phased out over five years, 2) reduces the assessment cap on non-homesteaded property from 10% to 5% and delays the expiration of that cap to 2023, and 3) removes the recapture provision of all assessment caps.

The proposed amendment would prohibit increases in the assessed value of  homestead property if the fair market value of the property decreases; reduces the limitation on annual assessment increases to non-homestead property; and provides an additional homestead exemption.

Specifically, non-homestead or commercial property would have their assessment increases capped at 3 percent per year. The property tax rate would also be lowered to 10 percent for rental and 5 percent for commercial properties. According to reports, this will put non-homestead or commercial property owners in line with the benefit received by homestead owners.

Additionally, the measure would implement an additional homestead exemption for first-time buyers equal to 50 percent of the median home price in the county. The additional exemption, however, would be gradually reduced until it expires within 5 years.

INTENT:  To create and increase additional Homestead Exemptions.

RECOMMENDATION:  NO.  Florida Business Watch stated that Amendment 4, a cap on the assessed value of all non-homesteaded property, in on the November ballot and will adversely affect local government budgets. If passed, Amendment 4 is expected to cost Florida's cities and counties more than $157 million in the first year. Because of the compounding nature of this tax change, the effect on city and county budgets will be well over $1 billion dollars in the first 4 years alone.

Ultimately the continuous limitations placed on local government has a cumulative effect whereby not only cities be unable to provide required services, but inequities between property owners will continue to be created.

Also, there was a time that the homestead exemption was created to benefit Florida residents.  With the advent of so many additional homestead exemption, the benefit to Floridians has essentially been eliminated, only causing tax rates to rise to account for lost revenues.


This proposed constitutional revision eliminates the requirement that a general law repealing a court rule pass by a two-thirds vote of each house, thereby providing that the Legislature may repeal a rule of court by a general law approved by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature that expresses the policy behind the repeal.

The proposed bill proposes that three justices be added to the seven-member court. Additionally, two divisions - civil and criminal - would be created within the high court with five justices each. The governor would be in charge of appointing the chief justices for each division and two would alternate as chief justice of the entire court. Appointees would have to be confirmed by the Senate. The proposed legislation also grants the House access to investigative files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission and sets aside at least 2.25 percent of the state's general revenue to fund the judicial branch.

RECOMMENDATION:  NO.  The proposal has garnered opposition from judges across the state and The Florida Bar, the legal group that represents the state's 90,000 lawyers.  This is nothing more than an attack on a independent Judiciary by another branch of government.


Proposes an amendment to prohibit public dollars from funding abortions. This would prohibit the State Constitution from being interpreted to create broader rights than those contained in the U.S. Constitution. Exempts federal law requirements, physician-certified physical danger to the mother and instances of rape or incest.

RECOMMENDATION:  NONE.  This is nothing more than whether or not you are Pro-Choice or Pro-Life.  Depending upon what you believe will decide how you will vote.  Pro-Choice will vote NO,  Pro-Life will vote YES.  Therefore, no recommendation is necessary.


Proposes an amendment to remove a prohibition on revenues from public treasury being used to aid any church, sect or religious denomination in aid of a sectarian institution. This would insure that no individual/entity can be denied any government benefit, funding or support based on religious identity or belief.

RECOMMENDATION:   NONE.  Again, this is another attempt to break down the Separation of State and Church.  If you believe there should be Separation you would vote NO.  If you believe there shouldn't be Separation between the two you would vote YES.  Therefore, no recommendation is necessary.


If enacted this amendment would authorize the legislature to totally or partially exempt surviving spouses of military veterans or first responders who died in the line of duty from paying property taxes.

It creates a new homestead exemption for surviving spouses of the military and first responders killed in the line of duty. Exemption can be granted for the full value of the home. Expected revenue loss to local governments is $0.6 million starting in 13-14.

RECOMMENDATION:  YES.  However, it is hoped that if it passes, the legislature will limit the exemption so long as the surviving spouse is single to help them through a difficult time and for a limited period of time.


If enacted this amendment would provide an exemption from ad valorem taxes levied by local governments on tangible personal property that's value is greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000.

It doubles the current exemption on tangible personal property taxes to $50,000. This could impact your business if you have tangible personal property like machinery of between $25,000 and $50,000. Expected revenue loss to local governments is $20.1 million beginning in 13-14.

RECOMMENDATION:  NO.  Each granted increase in exemption to taxes makes it that much harder for local government to pay for required services, and requires those remaining categories that they can tax to pay more than their fair share.  No economic basis is provided to justify this tax exemption other than to increasingly provide a series of exemption until available taxing sources will be highly limited and highly taxed.  It will increase inequities among entities.


If enacted this amendment would enable the state legislature to authorize counties and municipalities to offer additional tax exemptions on the homes of low-income seniors.

It will also provide an additional exemption to low-income seniors if counties and municipalities choose to offer it. There are a number of eligibility requirements and 100% of taxes owed can be exempted. Expected revenue loss to local governments is $9.1 million in 14-15.

RECOMMENDATION:  NO.  Already with existing homestead exemptions for senior, many properties pay no property taxes nor pay for any the services they use.  Therefore, the pool of properties that can be taxed will be decreased causing those properties to pay more.


If enacted this amendment would replace the president of the Florida Student Association with the chair of the council of state university student body presidents as the student member of the Board of Governors of the State University System. The amendment also requires that the Board of Governors create a council of state university student body presidents.


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