As reported Saturday by The Herald Tribune, the nonpartisan Florida League of Women Voters said voters in the Sunshine State are “confused and frustrated” by the lengthy ballot they are facing in the Nov. 6 general election.
The ballot, which includes the presidential race, a U.S. Senate contest as well as a host of local and regional races and issues, was dramatically extended by the Florida Legislature’s decision to place 11 constitutional amendments on the ballot — with many of the amendments involving long, detailed titles and summaries.
The League, a nonpartisan elections group, said its organization has received over 1,000 phone calls asking or complaining about the amendments.
So, what’s the scoop?
Referred to technically as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments, each of these 11 ballot measures — if passed — would amend the Florida State Constitution.
Unlike an “initiated constitutional amendment” — where voters both initiate and approve the measure — “legislatively-referred constitutional amendments” are initiated by a state’s legislature and placed on the ballot where they can be approved or rejected by the voters.
As explained by Ballot Pedia, Amendment 1 — also known as the Florida Health Care Amendment — would “prohibit laws or rules from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage; permit a person or an employer to purchase lawful health care services directly from a health care provider.”
In other words, Amendment 1 is the opportunity of Florida voters to inoculate themselves from the Obamacare mandate.
Amendment 2 — the Florida Veterans Property Tax Amendment — would grant property tax discounts for disabled veterans.
In 2006, Florida residents voted to grant homestead ad valorem tax discounts to all combat-disabled veterans who were residents of Florida prior to their service.
Amendment 2, for the 2012 ballot, explicitly extends the ad valorem tax discount to all combat-disabled veterans currently living in Florida, regardless of residency status prior to their service.
Amendment 3 – known also as the Florida State Revenue Limitation, SJR 958 and “Smart Cap” – is modeled after Colorado’s 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which limited state revenue using a formula based on population growth and inflation.
Amendment 3 proposes to replace existing revenue caps with a new limitation based on inflation and population change. Any funds exceeding the revenue limits would be placed in the state’s “rainy day fund.” Should the fund reach 10 percent of the prior year’s total budget, the Florida State Legislature would be required to vote to either provide tax relief to Florida residents or to reduce their property taxes.
Amendment 4 — the Florida Property Tax – would prohibit increases in the assessed value of homestead property if the fair market value of the property decreases. It would also cap the annual assessment increases to non-homestead property to 5 percent each year and implement an additional homestead exemption for first-time buyers equal to 50 percent of the home’s value capped at the median home value in the county.
The additional exemption would be reduced by 20 percent per year, expiring after 5 years.
Amendment 5 – known also as the Florida Supreme Court Amendment –revises provisions relating to repeal of court rules, limits readoption of repealed court rule, and stipulates that all appointments to the Florida Supreme Court be subject to confirmation by the senate.
The State Constitution authorizes the Supreme Court to adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts. The constitution further provides that a rule of court may be repealed by a general law enacted by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. This proposed constitutional revision eliminates the requirement that a general law repealing a court rule pass by a two-thirds vote of each house, thereby providing that the Legislature may repeal a rule of court by a general law approved by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature that expresses the policy behind the repeal.
Amendment 6 — also known as the Florida Abortion Amendment — would prohibit the use of public funds for abortions except as required by federal law and to save the mother’s life. The measure also specifies that Florida’s state constitution cannot be construed to include broader rights to abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution.
Amendment 8, also known as the Florida Religious Freedom Amendment is a measure that would to repeal the state’s “Blaine Amendment,” which bans the use of public dollars for religious funding.
As “part of the Florida Constitution that originated in 19th-century anti-Catholic and Ku Klux Klan sentiment,” The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reported on May 6, 2011 — following the 26-10 vote by the Florida Senate to place the measure on November’s ballot — “anti-religion groups have sued under the Blaine Amendment to stop government from contracting with organizations such as halfway houses and soup kitchens to provide secular services—solely because they are religiously affiliated.”
Section 3 of Article I of the Florida Constitution begins:
There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety.
This is followed by the following clause:
No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
Should Amendment 8 be passed, that wording would be changed to read simply:
No individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief.
Amendment 9, also known as the Florida Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses, would authorize Florida’s state legislature to partially or completely exempt surviving spouses of military veterans or first responders who died in the line of duty from paying property taxes.
Amendment 10 — also known as the Florida Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption Amendment –would provide an exemption from ad valorem taxes levied by local governments on tangible personal property that has a value greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000.
Amendment 11 – known also as the Florida Senior Homestead Tax Exemption — would enable the state legislature to authorize counties and municipalities to offer additional tax exemptions on the homes of low-income seniors.
Amendment 12 – or, the Florida Appointment Process for State University System Board of Governors Revision Amendment — proposes to replace the president of the Florida Student Association with the chair of the council of state university student body presidents as the student member of the Board of Governors of the State University System. The amendment also requires that the Board of Governors create a council of state university student body presidents.
“Whenever the people are well informed, “Thomas Jefferson once said, “they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
Now that you know what “rights” you have available to “set” for yourselves as a Florida resident on Nov. 6 — just as you have done in deciding which candidate you will choose to be your next president — all that’s left to do is to make up your mind on these 11 ballot measures — and vote.