Ballots-The Orlando Times
The Answers On The Amendments
BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
As electoral upsets have defined this year’s primary contests, this year’s elections within the state of Florida are also characterized by the volume of amendments on this year’s ballot.
When Floridians cast their ballots In November of this year, they will decide their next Governor, as well as legislative seats and amendments on the Florida ballot. There are eleven amendments, marking this year as the ballot with the longest constitutional amendments towards the sunshine state in decades.
For African-American voters in Florida who have the potential to elect the state’s first Black Governor, these amendments are both relevant and real, as the state of Florida ranks second behind Georgia in the rise in new African-American homeownership across the United States and as many young African-American males work to restore their rights.
The twelve constitutional amendments on this year’s ballot are the most since 1998, when the state’s Constitution Revision Commission, which meets once every twenty years, placed nine of thirteen amendments on the ballot. The Constitution Revision Commission convened this year and placed eight amendments on the ballot.
In 1978, the commission advanced eight ballot proposals, which all were rejected by voters, along with a citizens’ initiative on casino gambling.
This year will be the first time that ballot measures from the commission will have to be approved by at least sixty percent of voters. Florida increased the margin for approval of constitutional amendments from a majority vote to sixty percent in 2006.
According to the League of Women Voters, Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which convenes every twenty years, is allowed by law to bundle more than one issue into each question. This practice, also known as “logrolling,” is prohibited when amendments are placed on the ballot by citizen initiative or by the Florida Legislature. Those amendments must contain just one distinct question.
“The League’s position is based not only on our existing position on issues but also on whether a proposal belongs in the state Constitution, which should be a framework for government operations. For example, the League does not believe that tax and spending issues belong in the Constitution. Those are decisions the Legislature should make. The Constitution should not be burdened with a litany of amendments that often are driven by politics rather than governance.” Patti Brigham, President League of Women Voters of Florida said.
“There are, however, some issues important enough to merit constitutional status. Offshore drilling is one example. While the League does not believe that bans on tobacco smoking and vaping should have a home in the Constitution, the protection of Florida’s waters and shorelines from pollution should. Because the Constitution Revision Commission chose to bundle multiple and unrelated issues into single questions, such as a vaping ban with a drilling ban, the League is recommending a yes vote on Amendment 9.”
2018 List of Florida Amendments and the Companies and Organizations that have Endorsed Them
Amendment 1- Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption
Wording on the ballot - Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to 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 shall take effect January 1, 2019.
In plain English - It increases the amount of a home’s value that is exempted from property taxes.
Supporters of the measure: GOP members of the Florida Legislature, Florida State Senator Tom Lee
Opponents of the measure: The Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties, The Florida City and County Management Association, Florida Policy Institute, Florida Education Association, Florida League of Women Voters, and The Sun Sentinel and Tampa Bay Times
Amendment 2 - Limitations on Property Tax Assessments
Wording on the ballot - Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to 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.
In plain English - There is an existing cap on non-homestead property assessments. This would make it permanent.
Supporters of the measure: Florida Association of Realtors, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida TaxWatch
Opponents of the measure: Citizens for Equitable Tax Policy, Florida League of Women Voters
Amendment 3 - Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
Wording on the ballot - 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.
The amendment’s impact on state and local government revenues and costs, if any, cannot be determined at this time because of its unknown effect on gambling operations that have not been approved by voters through a constitutional amendment proposed by a citizens’ initiative petition process.
In plain English - Citizens would get the right – through a vote – to decide whether to authorize casino gambling operations in the state. The Florida Legislature would not be able to make such decisions.
Supporters of the measure: Voters in Charge, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Disney World, and Florida League of Women Voters
Opponents of the measure: Vote No on 3, American Legion of Florida, and Hialeah Park
Amendment 4 - Voting Restoration Amendment
Wording on the ballot - The 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 banned from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case-by-case basis.
The precise effect of this amendment on state and local government costs cannot be determined, but the operation of current voter registration laws, combined with an increased number of felons registering to vote, will produce higher overall costs relative to the processes in place today.
In plain English - Restores the right to vote for most people with prior felony convictions once they finish their sentences.
Supporters of the measure: Floridians for a Fair Democracy, American Civil Liberties Union, Florida Education Association, Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida Policy Institute, and Florida League of Women Voters
Opponents of the measure: Floridians for a Sensible Voting Rights Policy
Amendment 5 - Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees
Wording on the ballot - Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district.
In plain English - It requires a two-thirds vote of the Florida Legislature in order to increase taxes. Currently, most tax measures need only a simple majority vote to pass.
Supporters of the measure: Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran (Republican – Dist. 37) and several Republican lawmakers, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Florida TaxWatch
Opponents of the measure: Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw and several Democratic lawmakers, Florida Policy Institute, Progress Florida, Florida Education Association, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Florida League of Women Voters
Amendment 6 - Rights of Crime Victims; Judges
Wording on the ballot - Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from 70 to 75 years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.
In plain English - Places into the Florida Constitution victims’ rights. It also increased the age for judges to retire to 75 and disallows judges from deferring to government agencies to interpret the law.
Supporters of the measure: Marsy’s Law for Florida, Florida Smart Justice
Opponents of the measure: Florida Public Defender Association, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Florida League of Women Voters, and Save My Constitution
Amendment 7 - First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities
Wording on the ballot - Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.
In plain English - Requires the state to pay death benefits to families of first responders and military personnel. It also requires a supermajority vote to increase fees at public universities.
Supporters of the measure: Association of Florida Colleges
Opponents of the measure: Florida Education Association, Florida League of Women Voters, and Save My Constitution
Amendment 9 - Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
Wording on the ballot - Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.
In plain English - Bans offshore drilling for oil and gas. It also limits the use of vaping in indoor workplaces.
Supporters of the measure: Vote Yes on 9, American Cancer Society, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Gulf Restoration Network, Florida Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club of Florida, 350 Pensacola, Center for Biological Diversity, Sea Turtle Conservancy, and Florida League of Women Voters
Opponents of the measure: Florida Petroleum Council, Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Save My Constitution
Amendment 10 - State and Local Government Structure and Operation
Wording on the ballot - Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes country charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even-numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.
In plain English - It prohibits counties from abolishing certain local offices, requires that the existence of a Department of Veteran’s Affairs be constitutionally mandated, and changes the starting date for the legislative session (second Tuesday in January).
Supporters of the measure: Most of Florida’s Clerks of Court, Tax Collectors, and Property Appraisers, and Most of Florida’s sheriffs
Opponents of the measure: Florida League of Women Voters, and Save My Constitution
Amendment 11 - Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes
Wording on the ballot - Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.
In plain English - This amendment repeals bans on aliens owning property in the state, the requirement for high-speed rail systems from the Florida Constitution, and other items.
Supporters of the measure: Florida Chamber of Commerce, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Florida Policy Institute, and Southern Poverty Law Center
Opponents of the measure: Save My Constitution
Amendment 12 - Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers
Wording on the ballot - Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.
In plain English - Bans public officials from lobbying for money while they are in office and for a period of six years after leaving office.
Supporters of the measure: Common Cause, Florida Policy Institute, and Integrity Florida
Opponents of the measure - Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Save My Constitution
Amendment 13 - Ends Dog Racing
Wording on the ballot - Phasing out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.
In plain English - Bans dog racing and gambling on dog racing (greyhounds and other breeds).
Supporters of the measure: Grey2K USA, Protect Dogs – Yes on 13, The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Numerous animal rights groups, and Florida League of Women Voters
Opponents of the measure: Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Greyhound Association, and Gaming and betting interests