Florida's proposed constitutional amendments explained

- Election Day is approaching fast.  In fact, it's already underway for those of you who vote by mail.  And this year's ballot is a long one because of all the amendments on the ballot -- there's over a dozen of them.

The 13 measures on the November ballot will be the most voters have faced since 1998, the last time the state’s Constitution Revision Commission met and put nine amendments on the ballot.

You’re not going to want to read all of that ballot language for the first time when you step into your voting booth, so here’s a chance to learn more about the amendments ahead of time.

Remember, these require at least 60 percent of voters to say yes in order to pass.


AMENDMENT 1: HOMESTEAD INCREASE

Amendment One would give Florida homeowners a property tax break.  If your home is valued at $100,000 or more, you'd get an additional $25,000 homestead exemption. 

The Florida Legislature put this on the ballot and it was a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.  It does not apply to school taxes.

But opponents say it will lead to funding cuts for other services we need, or just drive the government to raises tax rates and shift the tax burden to people who do not own homes.

To see how much -- or how little this tax break would help you, try the Amendment One calculator for homeowners: https://www.3hxestimator.org/hb3/hb3.php


AMENDMENT 2: NON-RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY TAX CAP

While Amendment One offers a break for people who own and live full-time in their homes, Amendment Two affects taxes for non-homeowners, like people who own rental properties, commercial buildings, and undeveloped land. It would make a temporary cap on their property taxes permanent. 

Florida rewards homeowners with a 3-percent cap on the taxable value on their primary homes.  It keeps the taxes from dramatically shooting up from year to year.

In 2008, landlords and commercial property owners said they also need a cap, to keep their property taxes from soaring out of control.  The legislature agreed to a 10 percent cap, but only for 10 years -- and that cap expires next year.

Amendment Two would make it permanent.

Florida Taxwatch is one of the primary supporters of Amendment Two.  Groups like the League of Women Voters say no tax revenue should be limited or prohibited in the constitution. In other words, they say any caps should be passed by laws through the legislature, instead of permanently enshrined in the constitution.


AMENDMENT 3: GAMBLING

Simply put, this one is designed to restrict the growth of casino gaming, though that's not how they sell it in the ads. On the surface, Amendment Three seems neither pro- nor anti-gambling.  Voting "yes" does, indeed take the power to expand casino gambling away from lawmakers and gives it to voters.

History shows us that the legislature is more receptive to casino gambling than voters. In fact, voters have rejected casino gambling almost every time it's been on the ballot.

So Amendment Three is actually designed to keep gambling in check and it's bankrolled by Disney -- which wants to protect the state's brand and reputation for family entertainment -- and by the Seminole tribe, which does not want its existing gaming operations to have more competition. 


AMENDMENT 4: FELON VOTING RIGHTS 

Amendment Four would automatically restore voting rights to felons once they've served their sentences.  Supporters have tried to win this argument in the legislature and in the courts without much success, so now, they've turned to voters.

READ: Evan Axelbank’s full story


AMENDMENT 5: SUPERMAJORITY FOR TAXES

Florida Republicans are pushing for an amendment that would require any new taxes or fees to have the approval of two-thirds of the legislature. Right now, only half are required.

READ: Evan Axelbank’s full story


AMENDMENT 6: VICTIMS’ RIGHTS

Maybe you’ve seen the ad featuring actor Kelsey Grammar supporting Amendment Six, also known as "Marsy's Law.”  It gives additional rights to crime victims and their families.

Critics say it could undermine the constitutional rights of defendants. But FOX 13's Lloyd Sowers talked to the widow of a local police officer who says the law gives victims a voice in the process.

READ: Lloyd Sowers’ full story


AMENDMENT 7: FIRST RESPONDERS AND HIGHER EDUCATION: 

It would require the payment of death benefits when law enforcement officers, paramedics, correctional officers and other first responders are killed while performing official duties.

It also would apply to Florida National Guard and active-duty military members stationed in Florida. 

It would establish a governance system for the 28 state and community colleges. It would require a supermajority vote by university boards of trustees and the Board of Governors when raising student fees.


AMENDMENT 8: PUBLIC SCHOOLS 

The amendment was a bundle of education proposals, but the Florida Supreme Court decided the title and wording of the amendment were misleading, so it was removed from the ballot.


AMENDMENT 9: OIL DRILLING AND VAPING

It would prohibit drilling for gas and oil in state coastal waters and ban vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces.

READ: News Service of Florida's story


AMENDMENT 10: GOVERNMENTAL STRUCTURE

It would require all charter-county governments to have elected constitutional officers, including sheriffs. It would lead to the Legislature beginning its annual session in January in even-numbered years. It would create an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism in the Department of Law Enforcement. It would revise the constitutional authority for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.


AMENDMENT 11: PROPERTY RIGHTS AND HIGH-SPEED RAIL 

It would remove language that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property. It would remove obsolete language that authorizes a high-speed rail system.

It would revise language to make clear that the repeal of a criminal statute does not affect the prosecution of any crime committed before the repeal.


AMENDMENT 12: ETHICS 

It would impose a six-year lobbying ban on former state elected officials, state agencies heads and local elected officials. It would also create a new ethics standard that would prohibit public officials from obtaining a “disproportionate benefit” from their actions while in office.


AMENDMENT 13: GREYHOUND RACING 

Would ban greyhound racing at Florida tracks after Dec. 31, 2020.  FOX 13's Evan Axelbank checked out how several sides are digging in for the fight that many say will determine what kind of future the dogs will have.

READ: Evan Axelbank’s full story


 

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