On top of almost every elected seat in the state of Florida being in contention in this fall's election, voters will also be asked to consider 13 amendments to the state's constitution. In other words, you need to do your homework before heading to the ballot box to avoid the long lines we've experienced in past years with an abundance of amendment questions.
This year the Florida Constitution Revision Commission met (as they do once every 20 years) to consider a broad spectrum of requests for amendments to the constitution. That is what has led to the large number of amendments this year.
The biggest question you should be asking yourself is, "Do these items really need to be an amendment to the state's constitution or could they be handled legislatively?" That is the litmus test that we at the Chamber's Government and Legislative Affairs Committee use when discussing the validity of the amendments. The Chamber has not taken a position on these items yet as many were just approved to be placed on the ballot this week. But take the time to inform yourself and stay tuned to the blog for future analysis.
Also, you may note some of these amendments seem to cover a broad spectrum of subjects. The law allows for amendments to be "bundled" to be voted on, for example off-shore drilling and vaping in the workplace are bundled or compensation for fallen first responders is bundled with a governance board for state colleges. However, you only get one vote so you don't get to vote yes on some parts of the bundle and no on other parts. This is where it gets controversial so make sure you read the entire amendment.
Below is a brief description of the amendments you will be asked to consider without editorial comments. Watch this site for more information regarding the full text of the amendments.
Amendment 1 - Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption
Approval of this amendment would increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies. The amendment would take effect January 1, 2019.
Amendment 2 - Limitations on Property Tax Assesments
Approval of this amendment would permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on specified non-homestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect January 1, 2019.
Amendment 3 - Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
Approval of this amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.
Amendment 4 - Voting Restoration Amendment
Approval of this amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.
Amendment 5 - Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees
Approval of this amendment would prohibit the Florida Legislature from raising or imposing taxes or fees unless two-thirds of both the House and Senate approve. The bill to raise or impose a tax or fee must be a single subject bill.
Amendment 6 (bundled) - Victim's Rights and Judge
Subject 1: Approval of this amendment would establish a series of rights for crime victims, including the right to be notified of major developments in criminal cases and the right to be heard in legal proceedings.
Subject 2: It would also increase the retirement age for judges from 70 to 75, which is mandatory.
Subject 3: It would also provide that judges or hearing officers should not necessarily defer to the interpretation of laws and rules by governmental agencies in legal proceedings.
Amendment 7 (bundled) - First Responders and Higher Education
Subject 1: Approval of this amendment would require that the families of any law enforcement officer, paramedic, correctional officer and other first responders, including National Guardsmen and active military stationed in Florida, killed in the line of duty be paid death benefits.
Subject 2: It would establish a governance system for the 28 state and community colleges allowing a state board of education to supervise the state college system and defining the role of the local board of trustees for each state college.
Subject 3: It would require a supermajority vote by university boards of trustees and the Board of Governors when raising student fees in other words it requires that a public university that wants to raise a fee get nine votes from its board of trustees, and 12 votes from the state Board of Governor.
Amendment 8 (bundled) - Public Schools
Subject 1: Approval of this amendment would impose an eight-year term limit on local school board members.
Subject 2: It would allow an alternative process for approving public schools, including charter schools, rather than by local school boards.
Subject 3: It would establish a requirement for the teaching of civic literacy in public schools.
Amendment 9 (bundled)- Oil Drilling and Vaping
Subject 1: Approval of this amendment would prohibit drilling for gas and oil in specified state coastal waters
Subject 2: Create a general ban on vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in indoor workplaces.
Amendment 10 (bundled) - Governmental Structure
Subject 1: Approval of this amendment would require all charter-county governments to have elected constitutional officers, including sheriffs.
Subject 2: It would lead to the Legislature beginning its annual session in January in even-numbered years.
Subject 3: It would create an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism in the Department of Law Enforcement.
Subject 4: It would revise the constitutional authority for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Amendment 11 (bundled) - Property Rights and High-Speed Rail
Subject 1: Approval of this amendment would remove language that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property. (Removes from the constitution obsolete language that made it more difficult for Asian-Americans to purchase land)
Subject 2: It would remove obsolete language that authorizes/mandates a high-speed rail system be developed in Florida.
Subject 3: It would revise language to make clear that the repeal of a criminal statute does not affect the prosecution of any crime committed before the repeal.
Amendment 12 (bundled) - Ethics
Subject 1: Approval of this amendment would impose a six-year lobbying ban on former state elected officials, state agencies heads and local elected officials.
Subject 2: It would also create a new ethics standard that would prohibit public officials from obtaining a “disproportionate benefit” from their actions while in office.
Amendment 13 - Greyhound Racing
Approval of this amendment would ban greyhound racing at Florida tracks after Dec. 31, 2020.