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- 2012 - October - 22nd -

11 Florida Constitutional amendments on Nov. 6 ballot

by The JBA Governmental Relations Committee

The JBA Governmental Relations Committee wrote a summary of the 2012 proposed Florida Constitutional amendments. The summary was created by Anthony Zebouni, Loree French, James Young, Bill Brinton, Roger Gannam, Charles McBurney and Jack Webb.

Amendment 1 — Health Care Services

In General: This would add an amendment to the Florida Constitution that attempts to prohibit the government from requiring individuals to purchase health insurance.

A Yes vote means you want the Florida Constitution to include a provision that prohibits the government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

A No vote means you do not want the Florida Constitution to include a provision that prohibits the government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

Amendment 2 — Veteran’s Property Tax Exemption

In General: This amendment would allow certain disabled veterans, who were not Florida residents prior to entering military service, to qualify for a discount on their property taxes.

A Yes vote means that the Legislature may, by general law, allow counties and municipalities to expand the existing tax exemption for partially or totally disabled veterans to also include a veteran who is not a resident of the State of Florida at the time of entering military service.

A No vote means that the current constitutional tax exemption for partially or totally disabled veterans remains unchanged, requiring that a veteran be a resident of the State of Florida at the time of entering military service to qualify for the tax exemption.

Amendment 3 — Limitation on State Revenue

In General: This amendment would set a state revenue limit each year based on a formula that considers population growth and inflation instead of using the current method of calculating the revenue limit based on personal income.

A Yes vote for Amendment 3 then beginning in fiscal year 2014, when the state collects more revenue than it forecasted, it must transfer the excess into the budget stabilization fund. Once the budget stabilization fund reaches its maximum, the state must then reduce the required amount the local school districts have to send the state. In such situations, if the local school districts have more funding than needed, the amount can be returned to the taxpayers.

A No vote means you do not want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit.

Amendment 4 — Property Tax Limitations

In General: This amendment would reduce the maximum annual increase in taxable value of non-homestead properties from 10 percent to 5 percent; provide an extra homestead exemption for first-time homebuyers; and allow lawmakers to prohibit assessment increases for properties with decreasing market values.

A Yes vote means that: (1) the Legislature may provide by general law that the assessment of homestead property may not increase if the just value of the property is less than the just value of the property on the preceding Jan. 1 (eliminates the “recapture rule” that allows a “save our homes” assessment limitation to continue to increase in years when the market is declining) – adding a third limitation on the increase in assessed value, with the first two described under “No vote”; (2) the Legislature may provide by general law that the assessment of non-homestead residential property may not increase by more than 5 percent from the assessment for the prior year and may provide that the assessment not increase at all if the just value of the property is less than the just value of the property on the preceding Jan. 1 (eliminating the “recapture rule” explained above); (3) the Legislature may provide by general law for a similar 5 percent limit on the increase in assessment for nonresidential/commercial property and may similarly remove the “recapture rule” explained above; (4) the Legislature may provide by law that a person who establishes a homestead exemption for the first time in three calendar years may receive an additional homestead exemption of 50 percent of the homestead property’s just value on the Jan. 1 of the year the homestead is established, continued for 5 years, but reduced each year by a specified formula.

A No vote means: (1) no change to the existing provision that limits an increase in the assessment to the lesser of 3 percent of the assessment for the prior year or the percentage change in the CPI; (2) no change to the existing provision that the assessment of non-homestead residential property may not increase by more than 10 percent from the assessment for the prior year; (3) no change to the existing provision restricting the increase in assessment for nonresidential/commercial property (same as non-homestead residential property); (4) no additional homestead exemption is authorized for a person establishing a homestead exemption who has not received a homestead exemption in the previous three calendar years.

Amendment 5 — State Courts

In General: This measure would provide for Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices; give lawmakers control over changes to the rules governing the court system; and direct the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates judicial misconduct complaints, to make its files available to the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

A Yes vote would require Senate confirmation of a justice of the Supreme Court before the appointee can take office (the governor would still select a proposed justice from a list provided by the Judicial Nominating Commission); if the Senate votes not to confirm, the Judicial Nominating Commission must reconvene and cannot re-nominate the person rejected; if the Senate fails to vote on the appointment of a justice within 90 days, the justice will be deemed confirmed and will take office.

A No vote: The present system stays in place where the governor selects from a list from the Judicial Nominating Commission. Presently, the governor appoints five members of the Judicial Nominating Commission and The Florida Bar appoints four members.

Part 2: A Yes vote: This proposed amendment requires the Judicial Qualifications Commission to make all files available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, but will be kept confidential until such information is used in the pursuit of an impeachment of a judge or justice.

A No vote: The present system would remain in place: all files of Judicial Qualifications Commission are kept confidential unless formal charges are filed, regardless of whether impeachment proceedings are pursued.

Part 3: A Yes vote: The Legislature will be allowed to repeal a rule of court by general law approved by majority vote by each house of Legislature; such overruling must express the policy behind the repeal; the Supreme Court could re-adopt the rule in conformity with the public policy expressed by the Legislature, but if the Legislature determines if a rule has been re-adopted and repeals the re-adopted rule, the proposed provision prohibits the Court from further re-adopting a repealed rule without the Legislature’s prior approval.

A No vote: The present system will remain in place: a rule of Court may be repealed by general law passed by two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature.

Amendment 6 — Public Funding of Abortions

In General: This amendment would make the existing federal ban on public funding for most abortions part of the state Constitution. It would narrow the scope of a state privacy law that is sometimes used in Florida to challenge abortion laws.

A Yes vote would prohibit public funding for abortion or health benefits coverage that includes abortion, except in the case of incest or rape, or to protect the life of the mother. Amendment 6 would also prohibit interpretation of the Florida Constitution to create abortion rights broader than abortion rights under the U.S. Constitution. The Florida Constitution is currently interpreted to prohibit requiring parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion, but parental notification may be required (and is by statute). Amendment 6 would remove the prohibition against requiring parental consent because no such prohibition is recognized under the U.S. Constitution.

A No vote means you are against placing the existing federal ban on using public funds for abortions into the state Constitution; and you are against eliminating certain current state privacy rights.

Amendment 8 — Religious Freedom

In General: This amendment would remove the prohibition in Florida’s Constitution that prevents religious institutions from receiving taxpayer funding.

A Yes vote would eliminate any Constitutional-mandated prohibition of support, either direct or indirect, on the basis of religion and provide that no individual or entity may be denied state-government benefits, funding or other support on the basis of religious belief or identity, except as required by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Amendment 8 eliminates the so-called “Blaine Amendment” originating in the Florida Constitution of 1885.

A No vote would maintain the status quo, which currently prohibits the use of revenues from the Florida treasury to directly or indirectly aid any church, sect or religious denomination or aid any sectarian institution.

Amendment 9 — Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder

In General: This amendment would give a full property tax exemption to the surviving spouses of military veterans who die while on active duty and to the surviving spouses of first responders who die in the line of duty.

A Yes vote means that the Legislature may, by general law, allow counties and municipalities to grant a tax exemption up to the total amount of the assessed value on homestead property of the surviving spouse of a veteran who died from service-connected causes while on active duty, or the spouse of a first responder (defined as law enforcement officer, correctional officer, firefighter, EMT or paramedic) who died in the line of duty.

A No vote means there is no change to the existing constitutional provisions granting tax exemptions to disabled veterans. Currently, the Constitution does not provide for tax exemptions for first responders or spouses.

Amendment 10 — Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption

In General: This amendment would double the tangible personal property tax exemption and allow local governments to increase the exemption.

A Yes vote means that the Legislature may, by general law, allow counties or municipalities to grant a tax exemption for tangible personal property that is almost double the existing exemption (adding to the current $25,000 an additional tax exemption for the assessed value greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000).

A No vote would result in retaining the existing constitutional provision which authorizes the Legislature by general law to allow counties and municipalities to grant a tax exemption for tangible personal property not to exceed $25,000 of the assessed value of the tangible personal property.

Amendment 11 — Additional Homestead Exemption

(Low Income Seniors)

In General: This amendment would give an additional property tax exemption to low-income seniors who have lived in their home for more than 25 years.

A Yes vote means that the Legislature may, by general law, allow counties or municipalities to grant a tax exemption up to the entire assessed value on homestead property with an assessed value of less than $250,000, provided the owner has attained age 65, has a household income that doesn’t exceed $20,000 and has made the property his/her permanent residence for at least 25 years. The Legislature may also allow counties and municipalities to grant the same tax exemption as provided under the existing constitutional provision.

A No vote means no change to the existing constitutional provision, which currently authorizes the Legislature by general law to allow counties or municipalities to grant a tax exemption on homestead property for an amount not to exceed $50,000 for an owner who has attained age 65 and who has a household income that doesn’t exceed $20,000 (no minimum years of residence required for the $50,000 exemption).

Amendment 12 — Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System

In General: This amendment would change the way the state selects the student representative on the state university system’s Board of Governors (“BOG”), which oversees the university system.

A Yes vote means that the BOG would create a new council of the state body presidents from Florida’s 12 universities and the new council’s chair would be the student representative on the BOG.

A No vote means that the 17 members of the board of governors of the State University System (BOG) shall include “the president of the Florida student association, or the equivalent.”

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