Registered voters who are voting by mail or at the polls for the upcoming General Election need to know that there are 12 Constitutional Amendment Proposals on this year’s ballot. This is the longest list in decades. One amendment (8) was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court.
Voters should carefully read each amendment. Some of the amendments (1-5) were proposed by the Legislature or by citizen initiative. The remaining (7, 9-13) come from the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The CRC meets every 20 years and is allowed to bundle more than one issue into each proposed amendment.
Conversely, amendments proposed by citizen initiatives or the Legislature must contain just one question.
To be approved, a constitutional amendment must receive 60 percent of the vote.
Here is a summary of the amendments.
Amendment 1- Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption
This would raise the portion of a home’s value that can be exempted from non-school property taxes. The change would apply to the assessed value of a homestead property between $100,000 and $125,000. This would increase the maximum exemption to $75,000.
Amendment 2- Limitations on Property Tax Assessments
Essentially, this would make permanent a temporary cap of 10 percent on annual property value increases. This applies to non-homestead properties.
Amendment 3- Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
This amendment would give voters the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize expansions of casino gambling. Currently, the authority rests with both the Legislature and voters.
Amendment 4- Voting Restoration For Individuals With Felony Convictions
This proposal would restore the right to vote to nearly 1.4 million Floridians who have served their sentences. This amendment does not apply to felony convictions for murder or sexual offenses. Florida is one of four states that continues to limit the rights of citizens to vote. The law dates back to the Civil War.
Amendment 5- Increase To Two-Thirds Vote Needed In Legislature To Increase Taxes
Currently, a simple majority is needed. This increase could affect the state in times of emergencies such as a hurricane or recession and could hamper the Legislature’s ability to pass a reasonable budget which is their yearly mandate.
Amendment 6- Rights of Crime Victims, Judges
This amendment is three items. It would add a list of rights for crime vicims which is modeled after California’s Marsy’s Law. It would raise the age for retirement of judges to 75, and it would bar judges from relying on administrative agencies’ interpretations of a law when ruling in cases.
Amendment 7- First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities
This is two items. The first would provide college tuition for the survivors of first responders and military members killed on duty. The second would require university trustees to agree by a two-thirds super-majority to raise college fees (not including tuition) and establish the state college system in the Constitution. Universities are in it, but state colleges (i.e., community colleges) are not.
Amendment 9- Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping In Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
This calls for a ban on oil and gas drilling in state-owned waters and a proposal to add vaping to the ban on smoking indoors.
Amendment 10- State and Local Government Structure and Operation
This is four items. One is to have the legislative session start in January rather than March in even-numbered years (the legislature currently changes its dates by statute), two is to create a counter-terrorism office (FDLE is already the lead agency), three is to make the state veterans affairs department constitutionally required (there is a provision in the Constitution), and four requires that five county-level offices (tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, sheriff and clerk of circuit court) be elected. In Hillsborough County, these are already elected offices.
Amendment 11- Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provisions; Criminal Statutes
Repeals the state’s ability to prohibit non-citizens from buying, owning and selling property; deletes a provision that forces the state to prosecute criminal suspects under the law they were originally charged under, even if the Legislature changes that law; deletes obsolete language having to do with high-speed rail in Florida (voters repealed this section in 2004).
Amendment 12- Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers
This expands the time from two years to six years that elected officials and government employees have to wait before they could lobby state government.
Amendment 13- Ban On Dog Racing
This proposal ends wagering on dog racing by 2020.