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On November 6th, Florida voters will not only vote for local, state and national candidates, but they will also determine the fate of 11 constitutional amendments. All 11 measures were placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature. Florida amendments need 60 percent of the vote in order to pass.

Amendment 1 – Health insurance mandates (“Health Care Services” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This amendment will prohibit laws or rules compelling anyone to buy health insurance, but would not apply to the federal law that requires all Americans to carry health coverage. Due to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the individual health insurance mandate, this amendment will likely do very little. The amendment could prevent the state from implementing a Massachusetts-type health care law if the federal health care law is repealed.

Proponents: Florida Chamber of Commerce

Opponents: Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida

Amendment 2 – Tax relief for veterans (“Disabled Veterans Homestead Property Tax Credit” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This amendment provides a homestead property tax exemption for qualified disabled veterans that is equal to the veteran’s percentage of disability as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Proponents: The Florida Legislature

Opponents: None known, although there is a potential budgetary impact based on the approximately 74,000 veterans who may qualify for the benefit.

Amendment 3 – Budget / taxes (“State Government Revenue Limitation” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This amendment limits revenue collected by the state to the amount collected the previous year, plus an annual adjustment based on a combination of population growth and the rate of inflation. Excess revenue must be deposited into the Budget Stabilization Fund, which is used to support public education, or returned to the taxpayers.

Proponents: Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida

Opponents: PICO United Florida, The Federations of Congregations United to Serve (FOCUS), Florida League of Women Voters, AFL-CIO, AARP, and Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida

Amendment 4 – Property tax breaks (“Property Tax Limitations” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This amendment reduces the assessment cap on non-homestead property from 10 percent a year to 5 percent, and delays the expiration of the cap to 2023. It also gives first-time home buyers an additional homestead exemption up to $150,000, phased out over 5 years, and allows the Florida Legislature to repeal Florida’s “recapture” rule. (The recapture rule causes some taxable values on homesteaded property to rise even when market values have dropped.)

Proponents: Taxpayers First (political action committee backed by the Florida Association of Realtors), Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida

Opponents: Many local governments, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida

Amendment 5 – Judicial reform(“State Courts” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This amendment requires Senate confirmation of the governor’s appointed justices, gives the Legislature power to repeal court rules by a simple majority vote, limits the readoption of repealed court rules, requires the Judicial Qualifications Commission to make all files available to the House Speaker and keep records confidential until impeachment is initiated.

Proponents: Generally supported and approved by the Republican members of the Florida Legislature

Opponents: The ACLU of Florida, League of Women Voters of Florida, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida

Amendment 6 – Abortion restrictions (“Prohibition of Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

While both federal and state law already prohibit the public financing of abortions, this amendment would add that ban to the state constitution. This amendment would also prohibit spending public funds on health benefits that include coverage of abortion, but it would not apply to expenditures required by federal law, which may include abortions to save the life of the mother or pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. It also exempts abortions from the privacy clause of the Florida Constitution.

Proponents: Rufus “Randy” Armstrong (Tampa obstetrician who supports the amendment through the group Citizens for Protecting Taxpayers and Paternal Rights), Florida Family Action PAC, and other anti-abortion groups including Florida Right to Life and Florida Catholic Conference

Opponents: The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Florida National Organization for Women, National Council on Jewish Women, ACLU, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida and many editorial boards around the state

Amendment 8 – Religious funding(“Religious Freedom” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This is formerly Amendment 7. There is no Amendment 7 that will appear on the ballot.

If passed, this amendment would repeal a 126-year-old provision in the state constitution that prohibits taxpayer funding of religious institutions. The provision – commonly known as the “no aid” provision – states more unequivocally than the U.S. Constitution that state funds not be spent “directly or indirectly” in support of any entity that promotes religion. If passed, the amendment would remove that prohibition. An important subsection within this amendment concerns its impact on future school voucher programs. Past programs that included religiously affiliated schools have been deemed unconstitutional partly due to the “no aid” provision. Passage of Amendment 8 would remove that obstacle to restarting voucher programs.

Proponents: Former Republican Representative Juan Zapata (through a group called Citizens for Religious Freedom and Non-Discrimination), Florida Family Action, Florida Catholic Conference, Diocese of Venice, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and is generally supported and approved by Republican members of the Florida Legislature

Opponents: ACLU of Florida, Americans for United Separation of Church and State, Anti-Defamation League, Florida Education Association and the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida

Amendment 9 – Surviving spouses tax relief (“Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses of Veterans or First Responders Killed in the Line of Duty” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This amendment eliminates property taxes on the homes of spouses of veterans or first responders killed in the line of duty.

Proponents: The Florida Legislature, Florida Order of Police and the Police Benevolent Association

Opponents: None known, although there is a potential budgetary impact for schools and local governments if passed.

Amendment 10 – Small business tax break (“Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This proposed amendment is about taxes assessed on tangible personal property used in a business or to earn income. Furniture, fixtures, machinery, tools, shelving, signs and equipment are examples of property that is subject to the state’s tangible personal property tax. By April 1 of each year, those owning tangible personal property that is used in a business or to earn income must file a return with the local property appraiser. Under current law, the first $25,000 of tangible personal property is exempt from taxation. If passed, Amendment 10 would boost that exemption to $50,000. It would also allow cities and counties to grant additional tangible personal tax exemptions beyond the $50,000 exemption.

Proponents: NFIB Florida, Governor Rick Scott, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, Manufacturers Association of Florida, Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties, and almost all members of the Florida Legislature

Opponents: Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida

Amendment 11 – Senior homestead tax exemption (“Additional Homestead Exemption” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This amendment allows counties and municipalities to grant an additional homestead tax exemption equal to the assessed value of the homestead property for low-income seniors. Homeowners who qualify include those who are 65 or older with an annual household income less than $27,030, who live in homes with a market value of less than $250,000. The owner must have title to the property and must have maintained residency at the home for at least 25 years.

Proponents: The Florida Legislature

Opponents: None known

Amendment 12 – Student representation (“Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System” is the actual title that will appear on the ballot)

This amendment revises the selection process for the student member of the Board of Governors of the State University System by replacing the president of the Florida Student Association with the chair of the council of state university student body presidents. It also requires the Board of Governors to organize the council of state university student body presidents.

Proponents: Florida State University, and the majority of members of the Florida Legislature

Opponents: Florida Student Association

 

For more information about these proposed amendments, visit the Collins Center for Public Policy website for nonpartisan analysis of the issues:  2012 Proposed Florida Constitutional Amendments.

Sources used to create this newsletter include:

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

Established in 1925, Gunster is one of Florida’s oldest and largest full-service law firms. The firm’s clients include international, national and local businesses, institutions, local governments and prominent individuals. Gunster maintains its presence in Florida with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, Vero Beach and West Palm Beach. Gunster is home to more than 165 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, providing counsel to clients through 18 practice groups including banking & financial services; business litigation; construction; corporate; environmental & land use; government affairs; health care; immigration; international; labor & employment; leisure & resorts; private wealth services; probate, trust & guardianship litigation; professional malpractice; real estate; securities and corporate governance; tax; and technology & entrepreneurial companies. Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 250 largest law firms.


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