News Section: Election 2012
Summary of Amendment Referendums on November Ballot
There will be no fewer than 11 referendums on this year's Florida ballot, each seeking to amend the state Constitution. Because of changes to state law regarding ballots, a more comprehensive description will be included, severely increasing the length of November ballots. The following summary explains the crux of each proposed measure.
We also note the estimated cost of each, as most of the amendments would take revenues away from municipal general funds that have already experienced continuous shortfalls in recent years. If these amendments, many of which sound very reasonable on the surface, are passed, those revenues would then either have to be made up through cuts in personnel or services, increasing taxes and fees, or a combination of both.
Amendment 1: Florida Health Care
Amendment 1 aims to prevent laws or rules from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage. It is an effort to allow Florida to opt out of the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.
Amendment 2: Florida Veterans Property Tax
This would allow for property tax discounts for disabled veterans, extending the 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. The break would cost local governments about $5 million per year in tax revenues.
Amendment 3: Florida State Revenue Limitation
Proposes replacing existing revenue limits with a limitation based on inflation and population changes. Any funds that exceed the revenue limits would be placed in the state's "rainy day fund." Once that fund reaches 10% of the prior year's total budget the state legislature would be required to vote to provide either tax relief or reduce property tax rates. Opponents contend that because of chronic shortfalls, there is already not enough revenues to properly maintain sufficient services and that limiting the state's ability to collect revenues will lead to an erosion in quality of life for most Floridians.
Amendment 4: Florida Property Tax
The proposed amendment would prohibit increases in the assessed value of homestead property if the fair market value of the property decreases. It also reduces the limitation on annual assessment increases to non-homestead property, while and providing out-of-state residents the benefit of the homestead tax exemption. It is estimated to cost local governments more than $1 billion in its first year of implementation.
Amendment 5: Florida Supreme Court
Amendment 5 would modify the existing State Supreme Court, by stipulating that all appointments to the highest court be subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate. The proposed legislation also grants the Florida House of Representatives access to investigative files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Critics contend that it politicizes the third branch of government, making it less independent as a check and balance.
Amendment 6: Florida Abortion
This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. This prohibition does not apply to an expenditure required by federal law, a case in which a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, or a case of rape or incest.
Federal law already prohibits the expenditure of federal funds for most abortions. This amendment would enshrine those prohibitions in the state's Constitution. There is also a provision in the amendment that would stop the use of the state Constitution's privacy clause in abortion cases making it so that courts would no longer be able to use the clause in defending abortion rights.
Amendment 8: Florida Religious Freedom
Amendment 8 overturns a ban on using public dollars for funding religious-based programming, which would repeal a 126-year-old provision in the state Constitution that prohibits taxpayer funding of religious institutions. If passed, the amendment would allow the state to use taxpayer monies to fund religious institutions and schools.
While the proposed Amendment bills itself as relating to religious-freedom, critics contend that it is an open attempt to do away with the separation of church and state and would hurt public schools by paving the way for publicly-funded school vouchers to be used at religious schools.
Amendment 9: Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse
Amendment 9 would provide ad valorem homestead property tax relief to the surviving spouse of a military veteran who died from service- connected causes while on active duty or to the surviving spouse of a first responder who died in the line of duty. The amendment authorizes the Legislature to totally exempt or partially exempt such surviving spouse's homestead property from ad valorem taxation.
The amendment defines a first responder as a “law enforcement officer, a correctional officer, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, or a paramedic" and would cost local governments more than $1.8 million in revenues, for its first three years.
Amendment 10: Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption
Amendment 10 would provide tax relief on tangible personal property valued between $25,000 and $50,000, to be extended in addition to other statewide tangible personal property tax exemptions provided by the Constitution and this amendment. It is estimated that the exemptions will cost local governments around $20 million per year.
Amendment 11: Additional Homestead Exemption
Amendment 11 would provide and additional homestead exemption for low-income seniors who are long-term residents of property that is equal in worth to the assessed value of the property, costing local governments an estimated $27.8 million over the first three years of its implementation.
Amendment 12: Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System
Amendment 12 is a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, sponsored by state Representative Shawn Harrison. If passed, it 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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