Elections Connection A Guide To Local Politics

With November’s general election rapidly approaching, it’s time to puzzle over amendment proposals in the hopes of divining their meaning before Tuesday, November 6 comes around.
Please note that it would be impossible to describe each amendment in its entirety, as the proposals themselves encompass an estimated 165 pages of documentation. Also, there is no amendment seven on the 2012 ballot.
Amendment 1: Health Care Services
What: Prohibits ­the state government from compelling Floridians to purchase health insurance
Relevance: For now, this amendment will have no effect, as it is superseded by the Federal Affordable Care Act. Should this act be repealed, however, amendment 1 will prevent the state from adopting its own similar system.
Amendment 2: Veterans Disabled Due to Combat Injury; Homestead Property Tax Discount
What: Expands current property discounts for veterans wounded in combat to include those who were not Florida residents when they entered the military.
Relevance: Current discounts would be expanded to include an estimated 74,000 veterans under the new rules; Florida legislators predict a $15 million cost but say the discounts could spark a stimulus in the housing market.
Amendment 3: State Government Spending Limitation
What: Significantly limits state government’s ability to collect revenue by limiting collection to the previous year’s amount with a small inclusion for inflation and population growth.
Relevance: This would severely reduce the government’s ability to raise taxes or issue licenses, fees, or fines. Similar measures have been rejected by 20 other state legislatures, according to Florida Trend Magazine.
Amendment 4: Property Tax Limitations; Reduction for Non-Homestead Assessment Increases
What: Reduces the cap on non-homestead property assessment increases from 10 percent to 5 percent.
Relevance: Proponents argue that this measure will stabilize property tax rates at a cost of $600 million to the government. Opponents argue, however, that local governments will simply increase millage rates (a tax on property values that local governments use to fund services like schooling and sanitation) to compensate, effectively nullifying any benefit that homeowners would receive from the new cap.
Amendment 5: State Courts
What: Enacts sweeping reform to the judiciary; allows court rulings to be overturned by the legislature by a simple majority vote, requires Senate confirmation of a Governor’s appointments to the State Supreme Court, and gives the Speaker of the House of Representatives access to documentation regarding judge misconduct proceedings before formal charges are filed.
Relevance: This amendment would give the legislature a great deal more influence on Floridian courts, including appointments and case rulings.
Amendment 6: Prohibition of State Funding for Abortion
What: Prevents any public funding for abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or in cases where the mother’s health is endangered.
Relevance: Current state and federal laws already carry out the stated aim of this amendment. However, passage will entrench this policy, making it much harder to repeal in the future. More importantly, an ancillary provision would allow abortion cases to be exempted from the Constitution’s privacy clause. This would almost certainly lead to the passage of a Parental Consent Law which, to this point, has been declared unconstitutional on privacy grounds.
Amendment 8: Religious Freedom
What: Repeals Constitutional prohibitions on state funding of religious organizations
Relevance: This would remove the separation of church and state with regards to funding. Previous governmental education policy suggests that lifting the prohibition would lead to an expansion of the voucher program, allowing the state to provide funding for religion-based educational establishments.
Amendment 9: Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder
What: Eliminates property taxes on homes of surviving spouses of veterans or first responders killed in the line of duty.
Relevance: This would provide financial support to widows of veterans, police officers, fire fighters, or paramedics at an annual cost of $600 million.
Amendment 10: Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption
What: Expands current “tangibles” exemptions for businesses from $25,000 to $50,000 (tangibles being defined as machinery, office furniture, computers, etc.).
Relevance: Supporters indicate that this amendment will alleviate the tax burden on an estimated 150,000 small businesses at a cost to local governments of $20.1 million
Amendment 11: Homestead Exemption; Low-Income Seniors
What: Allows counties to provide exemptions to seniors with an annual income under $27,030, provided the value of their property does not exceed $250,000
Relevance: Provides financial support for low-income seniors at a cost to of $9.1 million to local governments
Amendment 12: Appointment of Student Body President to the Board of Governors of the State University System
What: The student representative to the Board of Governors would now be the chairman of the State University Student Body of Presidents, rather than a member of the Florida Student Association.
Relevance: Mainly, this would serve to enfranchise Florida State University, who does not currently belong to the FSA and so, cannot participate in the election for the BoG.
For more information visit http://election.dos.state.fl.us/constitutional-amendments/2012-proposed.shtml

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Marie is the Managing Editor at the Osprey Observer. She covers news, transportation, education and likes to make a positive impact on the community and be 'in the know'!