Voter Guide | Florida's Constitutional Amendments, Explained - NBC 6 South Florida
Decision 2018

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Voter Guide | Florida's Constitutional Amendments, Explained

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    Voter Guide | Florida's Constitutional Amendments, Explained
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    TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 22: Voting booths are setup at the Yuengling center on the campus of University of South Florida as workers prepare to open the doors to early voters on October 22, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. Florida voters head to the polls to cast their early ballots in the race for the Senate as well as the Governors seats. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    What to Know

    • Floridians will have to vote on a dozen proposed constitutional amendments on Nov. 6.

    • The proposed amendments cover a wide range of topics, from property taxes to victims' rights and even to gambling across the state.

    • Each amendment must receive 60 percent voter approval in order to be passed.

    On Nov. 6, Florida voters will wrestle with 12 proposed constitutional amendments, deciphering the language and deciding what the best outcome for the state will be. The proposed amendments cover a wide range of topics, from property taxes to victims' rights and even to gambling across the state. 

    Some amendments are clear and straightforward, while others take some time to understand. Below are explanations of what each amendment means, as well as video interviews with supporters and opponents of the more controversial amendments. 

    Each amendment must receive 60 percent voter approval in order to be passed.

    Amendment 1: Homestead Exemption

    Amendment 1, like Amendment 2, involves property taxes. To understand Amendment 1, it is essential to know what exactly a homestead exemption is.

    A homestead exemption is a reduction in the taxable value of a property, based on that property being the owner’s primary residence.

    Right now, Florida homeowners receive a $50,000 reduction in the taxable value of their property, if it is valued at $75,000 or more. (School board taxes are not affected and that exemption remains at $25,000.)

    Amendment 1 would increase this $50,000 exemption by up to $25,000 for homes valued at more than $100,000. (It only applies to values above $100,000, so a home worth $101,000 would now have an exemption of $51,000, but a home worth $125,000 or more would get the full exemption of $75,000.)

    The new exemption would result in a tax break of roughly $250 to $300 per year for these homeowners.

    People with homes valued at $100,000 or less would not benefit from this amendment.

    Supporters of Amendment 1 say it will result in a significant tax break for many homeowners. Opponents say this tax cut doesn’t help renters or homeowners with property worth less than $100,000 and would leave gaps in county budgets. This, in turn, could force local governments to raise tax rates, which would offset any loss from Amendment 1, or cut services.

    Amendments 1 & 2 on Property TaxesAmendments 1 & 2 on Property Taxes

    Constitutional amendments one and two are both related to property taxes. One could decrease the amount you pay, the other the opposite. NBC 6's Steve Litz breaks them down.

    (Published Friday, Nov. 2, 2018)

    Amendment 2 – Property Tax Assessments

    Amendment 2 deals with properties that don’t qualify for homestead exemption (I.e., businesses, commercial properties, etc.) The value of these properties can only be increased by 10 percent annually, but this property tax cap is set to expire in January. Voting “yes” would make this threshold permanent, while voting no would allow it to expire and gives way for the threshold to be raised.

    Amendment 3 – Voter Control of Gambling in Florida

    Amendment 3 grants voters the right to approve of any casino gambling expansion in the state of Florida. Right now, establishing a casino mostly rests with the State Legislature. Voting “yes” on Amendment 3 would hand that right over to voters. Voting “no” would leave the authority to expand gambling with lawmakers in Tallahassee.

    Proponents of Amendment 3 say it would give voters the power to control gambling in the state – and would make casino expansion more difficult. Opponents say the state could potentially lose revenue if the amendment is passed.

    Amendment 4 – Restoring Felons Rights to Vote

    Amendment 4 would restore voting rights to felons – except those convicted of murder and sex crimes – after they’ve served their time. As it stands right now, felons do not automatically have their right to vote restored after they’ve completed their sentence or probation. They must also wait at least five years before applying to have that right.

    Supporters of Amendment 4 say giving voting rights back to felons who have completed their sentences would give a voice back to disenfranchised citizens. Opponents say felons must prove they are ready to re-enter society (thus abiding by the five-year period) before obtaining the right to vote again.

    Florida would join 47 other states that automatically restore voting rights to felons (excluding those convicted of murder and sex crimes) if Amendment 4 passes.

    The ballot also notes that the effect of the amendment on state and local government costs can't be precisely predicted, but "the operation of current voter registration laws, combined with an increased number of felons registered to vote, will produce higher overall costs relative to the processes in place today."

    Here's a deeper look into Amendment 4:

    On the Ballot in Florida: Amendment 4On the Ballot in Florida: Amendment 4

    NBC 6's Tony Pipitone breaks down Amendment 4, expected to reshape Florida's electorate for decades to come.

    (Published Monday, Oct. 29, 2018)

    Amendment 5 – Imposing, Authorizing and Raising State Taxes/Fees

    Amendment 5 would make it harder for lawmakers to impose, authorize or raise taxes. Tax increases would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature. 

    The proposal "does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution" and doesn't apply to "fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board or special district."

    Amendment 6 – Rights for Crime Victims; Judges

    Amendment 6 has three main components. The first would establish constitutional rights to victims of crimes, including the right to timely notification of legal proceedings; the right to be informed of the prison location where the accused is held; and the right to timely notification if and when the accused escapes or is released from prison.

    The second component of Amendment 6, which is not related to the first, would raise the retirement age of state judges from 70 to 75. The third component would require judges to interpret laws themselves instead of relying on an interpretation from a state agency.

    Voters say that having three separate issues bundled into one amendment is confusing, especially if a voter agrees with one component and not the others. For many voters, however, the bulk of the amendment deals with the first elements: Establishing constitutional rights for victims of crimes.

    A Closer Look at Amendment 6A Closer Look at Amendment 6

    NBC 6's Steve Litz looks into Amendment 6, which could mean more rights for victims of crimes.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018)

    Amendment 7 – First Responder Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges

    Amendment 7 also has more than one component. The first involves first responder and military member survivor benefits. The second involves the cost of public colleges and universities.

    Under the first part of Amendment 7, if a first responder (i.e., police officers, firefighters, National Guard) or military member is killed in the line of duty, surviving family members would be eligible for death benefits from the state.

    The second part of Amendment 7 would make it harder for board members of state-run universities to raise fees or impose new ones. It would require supermajority votes by university trustees and the state university system board of governors in order to do this.

    Amendment 8 – School Board Term Limits, Allow State to Operate Non-Board Established Schools and Civic Literacy

    This amendment was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court from the ballot in a 4-3 decision in early September – citing the amendment attempted to deceive voters by not mentioning words "charter schools."

    Amendment 9 – Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Indoor Workplaces

    Amendment 9 would bar offshore oil drilling in waters controlled by Florida and also prohibits the use of e-cigarettes at indoor workplaces. Environmentalists are largely in support of the amendment because of the offshore drilling ban, while a ban on indoor vaping is supported by those who believe e-cigarettes present their own series of health risks. The vaping ban would be in addition to the current ban on smoking in indoor workplaces.

    Florida's Amendment 9 on Offshore Drilling, VapingFlorida's Amendment 9 on Offshore Drilling, Vaping

    NBC 6's Steve Litz looks into Florida's amendment 9, which would prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling, as well as prohibiting vaping at indoor workplaces.

    (Published Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018)

    Amendment 10 – State and Local Government of Structure and Operation

    Amendment 10 would make it mandatory for all counties to elect a sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and Clerk of Circuit Court, rather than just having the county appoint them. The amendment would also change the date of legislative sessions in even-numbered years from March to January, as well as create an office of domestic security and counterterrorism within the department of law enforcement. Additionally, the amendment would require the Legislature to retain the Department of Veteran Affairs.

    Amendment 11 – Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provisions

    Amendment 11 is another bundled amendment. The first two provisions are largely referred to as “housekeeping” matters that would eliminate discriminatory language related to property rights for non-US citizens, as well as delete a section concerning high-speed transportation that was already repealed in 2004.

    The third provision, though, is substantive and could open the door for the Legislature to allow criminals to challenge their prosecutions if the statute they were convicted under was amended after they committed their crime.

    Right now, what’s known as the “Savings Clause” in the State Constitution prohibits the Legislature from applying reduced sentencing requirements and other criminal law changes to people who committed crimes before the law changes went into effect, even if the statute they were convicted under was repealed or amended. 

    The implications of this provision are unclear because it would only apply to statutes that have been amended, not repealed. 

    Supporters say Amendment 11 is a good “clean-up” proposal and could potentially reduce the prison population, thus saving the state money. Opponents say the practical effects of Amendment 11 are yet to be known and are against the idea of bundling separate issues together in one amendment.

    Amendment 12 – Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

    Amendment 12 expands ethics rules for elected officials and government employees. Under this amendment, officials would have to wait six years before they could lobby state government. The amendment also bars elected officials from using their status within office for private gain.

    Amendment 13 – Ends Dog Racing

    Greyhound racing has been happening for decades in Florida, and voters are due to decide whether it will continue or not. Amendment 13 would ban wagering on dog racing, specifically greyhounds, as of Dec. 31, 2020. “A person authorized to conduct gaming or pari-mutuel operations may not race greyhounds or any member of the Canis Familiaris subspecies in connection with any wager for money or any other thing of value in this state.” Supporters of the amendment say the dogs aren’t getting the care they need. Opponents say greyhounds are treated like athletes with premium food and appropriate training. Those opposing the ban say thousands of jobs and tax revenues are at stake.