In Depth: Election 2012
Eight of the 11 proposed amendments to the Florida constitution have been rejected by voters.
The following amendments failed:
- ▼ Amendment 1 – Health Care Services
- ▼ Amendment 3 – State Revenue Limit
- ▼ Amendment 4 – Property Tax Limit
- ▼ Amendment 5 – Florida Supreme Court Amendment
- ▼ Amendment 6 – Abortion
- ▼ Amendment 8 – Florida Religious Freedom
- ▼ Amendment 10 – Florida Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption Amendment
- ▼ Amendment 12 – Florida Appointment Process for State University System Board of Governors Revision Amendment
Of the 11 amendments on the ballot, only three got 60 percent,which is required to pass.
All were placed on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Most advanced the GOP's low-tax, small government agenda. The amendments were numbered 1 through 12, but there was no Amendment 7.
Amendments that passed:
- ▼ Amendment 2 – Veterans Tax Relief
- ▼ Amendment 9 – Florida Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses
- ▼ Amendment 11 – Florida Senior Homestead Tax Exemption
Health Care Services
In Florida, this amendment is a big deal, and is often considered a button issue as it related to healthcare.
The measure aims to prevent laws or rules from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage. Essentially, it would allow Florida to back out of the Affordable Healthcare Act upheld by the Federal Supreme Court earlier this year.
Here is the official constitutional amendment:
HEALTH CARE SERVICES
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to 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; permit a health care provider to accept direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; exempt persons, employers, and health care providers from penalties and taxes for paying directly or accepting direct payment for lawful health care services; and prohibit laws or rules from abolishing the private market for health care coverage of any lawful health care service.
Specifies that the amendment does not affect which health care services a health care provider is required to perform or provide; affect which health care services are permitted by law; prohibit care provided pursuant to general law relating to workers’ compensation; affect laws or rules in effect as of March 1, 2010; affect the terms or conditions of any health care system to the extent that those terms and conditions do not have the effect of punishing a person or an employer for paying directly for lawful health care services or a health care provider for accepting direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; or affect any general law passed by two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature, passed after the effective date of the amendment, provided such law states with specificity the public necessity justifying the exceptions from the provisions of the amendment.
The amendment expressly provides that it may not be construed to prohibit negotiated provisions in insurance contracts, network agreements, or other provider agreements contractually limiting copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, or other patient charges.
- If you vote YES: Florida residents and employers would NOT be required to purchase or obtain health insurance.
- If you vote NO: All Florida residents would be required to purchase or obtain health insurance.
The measure originates from State Rep. Scott Plakon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos in the Senate.
Back in 2010, a similar measure was put on the statewide ballot. However, it was later removed by court order because some officials claimed it was misleading and could confuse voters.
The new measure does not include the wording that was called into question in 2010.
Those in support of the measure believe the federal health care law is an abuse of federal power, and should not be able to require that people buy health insurance.
Those opposed to this measure think an amendment will not insure that people can opt out of the individual mandate set forth by the federal reform.
Similar measures were on the ballots in Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri in 2010.
Amendments 2, 3 and 4 all deal with property taxes.
Veterans Tax Relief
This amendment, if approved, would allow for property tax discounts for disabled veterans.
Here is the official constitutional amendment:
VETERANS DISABLED DUE TO COMBAT INJURY; HOMESTEAD PROPERTY TAX DISCOUNT
Proposing an amendment to Section 6 of Article VII and the creation of Section 32 of Article XII of the State Constitution to expand the availability of the property discount on the homesteads of veterans who became disabled as the result of a combat injury to include those who were not Florida residents when they entered the military and schedule the amendment to take effect January 1, 2013.
- If you vote YES: A vote "yes" on this bill explicitly extends the rights to ad valorem tax discounts, made available in 2010 to all veterans who were residents of Florida prior to their service, to all combat-disabled veterans currently living in Florida whether they were residents prior to their service or not.
- If you vote NO: A "no" vote means you do not want to extend the tax discount to disabled veterans who moved to Florida after entering the military.
Currently state law says disabled veterans who were Florida residents at the time they entered service can be granted property tax relief up to the full value of their home.
The change would eliminate the requirement that veterans must have been Florida residents prior to joining the service.
To be listed on the ballot, the amendment required approval by a minimum of 60 percent in the both the Florida House and the Florida Senate. On May 2 the Senate voted 38-0, while the House voted 117-0 on May 4.
Supporters say this amendment will benefit older veterans who were injured in combat but did not live in Florida at the time they entered the military. They say the property tax discount can help with medical bills and may allow veterans to stay in their homes longer as they age.
Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch says, "Generally, exemptions for narrow taxpayer populations should not be in the Constitution. However, because so much of Florida’s property tax system is regulated by the Constitution, making this change requires an amendment."
Opponents say state and local governments could face budget shortfalls because of the diminished property tax returns brought on by the collapse of the housing market.
Deirdre Macnab is the state president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. She says the Constitution shouldn’t be the place for tax provisions and the state shouldn’t have a loopholes for tax policies.
"Let's thank our veterans, our first responders and our low-income seniors not by opening more exemptions just for them, but by leveling the playing field, providing a fair tax rate for all Floridians and adequately funding our public schools and universities, so that we can compete with the rest of America -- perhaps one day bringing higher-paying jobs and new businesses to our state," said Macnab.
State Revenue Limit
Amendment 3, known as "Smart Cap," would replace the existing state revenue limits with a new limitation based on inflation and population changes.
STATE GOVERNMENT REVENUE LIMITATION
This proposed amendment to the State Constitution replaces the existing state revenue limitation based on Florida personal income growth with a new state revenue limitation based on inflation and population changes. Under the amendment, state revenues, as defined in the amendment, collected in excess of the revenue limitation must be deposited into the budget stabilization fund until the fund reaches its maximum balance, and thereafter shall be used for the support and maintenance of public schools by reducing the minimum financial effort required from school districts for participation in a state-funded education finance program, or, if the minimum financial effort is no longer required, returned to the taxpayers. The Legislature may increase the state revenue limitation through a bill approved by a super majority vote of each house of the Legislature. The Legislature may also submit a proposed increase in the state revenue limitation to the voters. The Legislature must implement this proposed amendment by general law. The amendment will take effect upon approval by the electors and will first apply to the 2014-2015 state fiscal year.
- If you vote YES: You want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit.
- If you vote NO: You do not want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit.
The measure would limit the amount of taxes that the state is allowed to collect. If the tax haul grows faster than the economy overall, or 10 percent of the previous year’s budget, the extra money would be given back to the people in the form of tax relief or a reducing in property taxes.
Supporters say this amendment would make sure the state budget never grows beyond a family’s ability to pay the taxes and fees needed to fund that growth. They say it would make government more efficient.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos said, "Florida’s families are forced to spend their money responsibly and so should state government. Historically government has spent more when times are good and then been forced to make dramatic cuts when the economy takes a downturn. The ‘Smart Cap’ amendment ensures the state budget doesn’t grow beyond a family’s ability to pay for it."
Opponents include AARP, the League of Women Voters, and religious organizations. Baptist minister Errol Thompson contends the cap would tie the state’s hands when the people need its help the most.
"What it's going to do is make tough times even tougher for Floridians here in the state that are already hurting," said Thompson. "It's going to make deeper cuts already into cuts where there's already been cuts in our schools, already cuts in our seniors' programs, as well as in our public safety."
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington has said that Amendment 3 could lead to an $11 billion state budget shortfall within ten years. Supporters say that analysis doesn’t account for the increased economic activity the amendment could help create.
Property Tax Limit
Amendment 4 would amend commercial and non-homestead property taxes.
PROPERTY TAX LIMITATIONS; PROPERTY VALUE DECLINE; REDUCTION FOR NONHOMESTEAD ASSESSMENT INCREASES; DELAY OF SCHEDULED REPEAL
(1) This would amend Florida Constitution Article VII, Section 4 (Taxation; assessments) and Section 6 (Homestead exemptions). It also would amend Article XII, Section 27, and add Sections 32 and 33, relating to the Schedule for the amendments.
(2) In certain circumstances, the law requires the assessed value of homestead and specified nonhomestead property to increase when the just value of the property decreases. Therefore, this amendment provides that the Legislature may, by general law, provide that the assessment of homestead and specified nonhomestead property may not increase if the just value of that property is less than the just value of the property on the preceding January 1, subject to any adjustment in the assessed value due to changes, additions, reductions, or improvements to such property which are assessed as provided for by general law. This amendment takes effect upon approval by the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, shall take effect January 1, 2013.
(3) This amendment reduces from 10 percent to 5 percent the limitation on annual changes in assessments of nonhomestead real property. This amendment takes effect upon approval of the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, takes effect January 1, 2013.
(4) This amendment also authorizes general law to provide, subject to conditions specified in such law, an additional homestead exemption to every person who establishes the right to receive the homestead exemption provided in the Florida Constitution within 1 year after purchasing the homestead property and who has not owned property in the previous 3 calendar years to which the Florida homestead exemption applied. The additional homestead exemption shall apply to all levies except school district levies. The additional exemption is an amount equal to 50 percent of the homestead property's just value on January 1 of the year the homestead is established. The additional homestead exemption may not exceed an amount equal to the median just value of all homestead property within the county where the property at issue is located for the calendar year immediately preceding January 1 of the year the homestead is established. The additional exemption shall apply for the shorter of 5 years or the year of sale of the property. The amount of the additional exemption shall be reduced in each subsequent year by an amount equal to 20 percent of the amount of the additional exemption received in the year the homestead was established or by an amount equal to the difference between the just value of the property and the assessed value of the property determined under Article VII, Section 4(d), whichever is greater. Not more than one such exemption shall be allowed per homestead property at one time. The additional exemption applies to property purchased on or after January 1, 2011, if approved by the voters at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, or to property purchased on or after January 1, 2012, if approved by the voters at the 2012 general election. The additional exemption is not available in the sixth and subsequent years after it is first received. The amendment shall take effect upon approval by the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, takes effect January 1, 2013.
(5) This amendment also delays until 2023, the repeal, currently scheduled to take effect in 2019, of constitutional amendments adopted in 2008 which limit annual assessment increases for specified nonhomestead real property. This amendment delays until 2022 the submission of an amendment proposing the abrogation of such repeal to the voters.
- If you vote YES: You favor the enhanced tax breaks being proposed.
- If you vote NO: You are against the enhanced tax breaks being proposed.
This proposed amendment would do a few things. First, it would provide an additional homestead exemption for first time homebuyers (anyone who has not owned a home in the last three years) equal to 50 percent of their home’s market value during the first year of home ownership.
To give you an idea of savings, a first time home buyer who purchased a home for $165,000 would save $1,000 in 2013 and an additional $2,000 over the next four years.
It would also reduce the assessment cap on non-homesteaded property from 10 percent to 5 percent and delays the expiration of that cap to 2023.
Finally, it would remove the Save Our Homes "Recapture Rule." Florida TaxWatch has said the passing of this amendment will increase Florida jobs, while improving Florida’s Gross Domestic Product and increase the personal income of most Floridians.
Meanwhile, Florida Business Watch has said that Amendment 4 will adversely affect local government budgets. They predict it will cost Florida’s cities and counties more than $157 million in the first year and more than $1 billion over four years. The group says the amendment could also mean businesses with identical properties will end up paying different property taxes and hamper new business start-ups.
Florida Supreme Court Amendment
This 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.
Proposing a revision of Article V of the State Constitution relating to the judiciary. 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. The court could readopt the rule in conformity with the public policy expressed by the Legislature, but if the Legislature determines that a rule has been readopted and repeals the readopted rule, this proposed revision prohibits the court from further readopting the repealed rule without the Legislature's prior approval. Under current law, rules of the judicial nominating commissions and the Judicial Qualifications Commission may be repealed by general law enacted by a majority vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. Under this proposed revision, a vote to repeal those rules is changed to repeal by general law enacted by a majority vote of the legislators present.
Under current law, the Governor appoints a justice of the Supreme Court from a list of nominees provided by a judicial nominating commission, and appointments by the Governor are not subject to confirmation. This revision requires Senate confirmation of a justice of the Supreme Court before the appointee can take office. If the Senate votes not to confirm the appointment, the judicial nominating commission must reconvene and may not renominate any person whose prior appointment to fill the same vacancy was not confirmed by the Senate. For the purpose of confirmation, the Senate may meet at any time. If the Senate fails to vote on the appointment of a justice within 90 days, the justice will be deemed confirmed and will take office. The Judicial Qualifications Commission is an independent commission created by the State Constitution to investigate and prosecute before the Florida Supreme Court alleged misconduct by a justice or judge.
Currently under the constitution, commission proceedings are confidential until formal charges are filed by the investigative panel of the commission. Once formal charges are filed, the formal charges and all further proceedings of the commission are public. Currently, the constitution authorizes the House of Representatives to impeach a justice or judge. Further, the Speaker of the House of Representatives may request, and the Judicial Qualifications Commission must make available, all information in the commission's possession for use in deciding whether to impeach a justice or judge. This proposed revision requires the commission to make all of its files available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives but provides that such files would remain confidential during any investigation by the House of Representatives and until such information is used in the pursuit of an impeachment of a justice or judge.
This revision also removes the power of the Governor to request files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to conform to a prior constitutional change. This revision also makes technical and clarifying additions and deletions relating to the selection of chief judges of a circuit and relating to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and makes other nonsubstantive conforming and technical changes in the judicial article of the constitution.
- If you vote YES: A "yes" vote would change some of the ways in which the Florida Supreme Court operates, giving the Legislature more control over the way the high Court operates. The Senate would have confirmation power over Supreme Court appointees and some changes to the way the courts operate. This would also give the House access to Judicial Qualifications Commission's investigative files on judges.
- If you vote NO: A "no" vote would leave the Florida Supreme Court as it currently operates.
Currently the governor has sole authority to appoint justices. This would take away that priviledge and require confirmation by the senate.
Currently, for the legislature to repeal court rules, a two-thirds vote in each chamber is needed. This amendment would allow a repeal with a simple majority.
Currently, investigations into allegations against judges are confidential. This amendment would allow the House access to those investigations.
Amendment 6 is also known as the Florida Abortion Amendment.
The proposed measure would prohibit the use of public funds for abortions; expect those abortions that are required by law, to save the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
Currently, federal and state statutes already prohibit using public funds for abortions unless in situations like those listed above.
Here is a summary of the constitutional amendment:
This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. This prohibition does not apply to an expenditure required by federal law, a case in which a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, or a case of rape or incest. This proposed amendment provides that the State Constitution may not be interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution. With respect to abortion, this proposed amendment overrules court decisions which conclude that the right of privacy under Article I, Section 23 of the State Constitution is broader in scope than that of the United States Constitution.
- If you vote YES: You support putting the existing federal ban on the use of public funds for abortions into the state constitution.
- If you vote NO: You do not want to put the existing federal ban on use of public funds for abortions into the state constitution.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Dennis Baxley.
Those opposed to it say this measure gives an added layer of protection to the measure currently in place.
Judith Selzer with the group Vote No on 6 has said, "Every woman deserves to make her own personal decisions based on her values and her doctor’s advice without politicians interfering."
Many cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, where the court ruled for a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment did extend to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, when discussing this measure.
This amendment was removed from the ballot.
Florida Religious Freedom
The measure would prevent people from being barred from participating in public programs if they choose to use public funds at a religious provider.
Ultimately, the measure would repeal that Florida ban on public dollars for religious funding. It is commonly known as the Blaine Amendment.
Here is the official constitutional amendment:
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
- If you vote YES: You support the use of public money for funding religious institutions.
- If you vote NO: You are against the use of public money for religious activities.
The measure first appeared as Amendment 7 in 2011, but a judge in Leon County ruled that it would not be on the 2012 ballot because of the phrase "consistent with the U.S. Constitution."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi then rewrote the proposal. Bondi then placed the proposal back on the ballot as Amendment 8.
She changed the wording to include, "Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, governmental benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution."
Some maintain that the measure is still misleading.
Those in support of the measure, like Rep. Stephen Precourt, say religious people should be treated the same as non-religious people.
Those opposed to it say there is a bigger picture problem with the amendment. In fact, they allege it’s not about religious freedom but rather an attempt by the state to gain voter approval for funding religious organizations with taxpayer money.
Florida Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses
The measure allows for property tax relief for the spouses of military veterans and first responders killed in service.
HOMESTEAD PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION FOR SURVIVING SPOUSE OF MILITARY VETERAN OR FIRST RESPONDER
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature to provide by general law ad valorem homestead property tax relief to the surviving spouse of a military veteran who died from service- connected causes while on active duty or to the surviving spouse of a first responder who died in the line of duty. The amendment authorizes the Legislature to totally exempt or partially exempt such surviving spouse's homestead property from ad valorem taxation. The amendment defines a first responder as a law enforcement officer, a correctional officer, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, or a paramedic. This amendment shall take effect January 1, 2013.
- If you vote YES: A "yes" vote offers assistance to surviving spouses by freeing them from paying taxes on a homestead property.
- If you vote NO: A vote of "no" means surviving spouses will not get any cuts to the taxes paid on homestead properties.
The measure is sponsored by Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa).
Opponents of this bill say they’re concerned that offering these benefits will reduce the money needed for schools and local governments.
Supporters assert the tax cut is valuable to the loved ones of people who lost their lives serving the country and the public.
The bill allowing the amendment to be put on the ballot passed in both the Florida House and Senate by unanimous votes during the 2012 legislative session.
Florida Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption Amendment
Another tax amendment, this one would provide an exemption from ad valorem taxes levied by local governments on tangible personal property with a value between $25,000 and $50,000.
TANGIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to:
(1) Provide an exemption from ad valorem taxes levied by counties, municipalities, school districts, and other local governments on tangible personal property if the assessed value of an owner's tangible personal property is greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000. This new exemption, if approved by the voters, will take effect on January 1, 2013, and apply to the 2013 tax roll and subsequent tax rolls.
(2) Authorize a county or municipality for the purpose of its respective levy, and as provided by general law, to provide tangible personal property tax exemptions by ordinance. This is in addition to other statewide tangible personal property tax exemptions provided by the Constitution and this amendment.
- If you vote YES: A yes vote means businesses would be exempt from paying taxes on certain tangible properties including things like machinery.
- If you vote NO: The taxes on tangible personal properties remain as they currently are.
Small businesses stand to benefit the most from this amendment. This exemption could help them in a sluggish economy and could also encourage more businesses to come to the state.
But, local governments could lose a significant amount of tax dollars. It’s estimated that the extra $25,000 exemption would reduce local government revenues by $20.1 million. That deficit could be made up by increasing millage rates which would shift the tax to individuals/businesses that do not qualify for the exemption. Also, Florida currently has some of the lowest taxes for small businesses nationwide.
Florida Senior Homestead Tax Exemption
This tax amendment applies specifically to certain seniors in the state of Florida. The select group of individuals over age 65 would be eligible for an additional homestead exemption.
ADDITIONAL HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION; LOW-INCOME SENIORS WHO MAINTAIN LONG-TERM RESIDENCY ON PROPERTY; EQUAL TO ASSESSED VALUE
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law and subject to conditions set forth in the general law, to allow counties and municipalities to grant an additional homestead tax exemption equal to the assessed value of homestead property if the property has a just value less than $250,000 to an owner who has maintained permanent residency on the property for not less than 25 years, who has attained age 65, and who has a low household income as defined by general law.
- If you vote YES: You support a tax exemption for low income seniors.
- If you vote NO: The homestead taxes currently paid by low income seniors would not change.
The group that most stands to benefit are seniors currently living on fixed incomes. Supporters say it can be a struggle for people over 65, many of whom rely on social security, to afford their homes and their medical care. This could provide relief for some of those individuals.
To be eligible for the additional exemption, the home’s property value would have to be below $250,000 and the homeowner would have to have lived on the property for 25 years or more and be 65 or older. Additionally, the owner’s household income would have to be $27,030 or less.
Opponents worry that it would be another tax cut that would take money away from local governments already struggling to pay for schools and other necessary functions.
The exemption would only apply to counties and municipalities that offer the current low-income senior exemption.
Florida Appointment Process for State University System Board of Governors Revision Amendment
APPOINTMENT OF STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT TO BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE STATE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution 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 and to require that the Board of Governors organize such council of state university student body presidents.
- If you vote YES: A "yes" vote means a change in the person representing students on the Board of Governors of the State University System and requires the BOG to create a council of state university student body presidents.
- If you vote NO: The president of the Florida Student Association would continue represent students on the Board of Governors.
The Board of Governors has 17 members, one of which is the chairman of the Florida Student Association.
If passed, the student representative would be chosen differently. It would require a council to be formed that would be made up of student body presidents from all 12 state universities in Florida. The chair of that council would then be the student representative on the Board of Governors.
There is a cost for schools to take part in the Florida Student Association. Therefore, some schools have not been represented and therefore could not have a student from that university be chosen for the BOG.
This amendment, if passed, would create a council that would have representation from all 12 universities, at no cost to the university itself.