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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Volusia County

Voters' guide to 12 proposed state amendments
Rating: 2.59 / 5 (32 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Oct 19 - 00:11

By Samantha Joseph

Staff writer

Twelve proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

They cover a broad range of issues, including allowing religious organizations to receive public funds, increasing homestead exemptions for new homebuyers, providing a tax break for disabled veterans and requiring Senate confirmation of the governor's nominees for the Florida Supreme Court.

Here's a voters' guide based on information from The Collins Center for Public Policy, a think-tank that examines statewide issues, and analysis from The James Madison Institute, a non-partisan policy center based in Tallahassee. For additional analysis and the full text of the proposed amendments, visit www.FLAmendments.org.

Hometown News does not endorse any amendment, but instead, provides information about each proposal for voters to make educated decisions.

AMENDMENT 1

Title: Health Care Services

In brief: Prohibits laws or rules compelling anyone to buy health insurance. It would add an amendment to the state constitution that attempts to prohibit the government from requiring individuals to purchase health insurance.

If you vote yes: It means you want the Florida Constitution to include a provision that prohibits the government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

If you vote no: It means you do not want the Florida Constitution to include a provision that prohibits the government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

Arguments for: Supporters say the federal government cannot force people to purchase health insurance, and this amendment is an attempt to protect Floridians from that requirement in the federal health care act passed in 2010. They say it would show that Congress overstepped its authority.

Arguments against: Opponents say despite its stated intention, this proposed amendment will not allow Floridians to opt out of the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 28 that the federal requirement to purchase insurance is constitutional.

AMENDMENT 2

Title: Veterans disabled due to combat injury; homestead property tax discount

What it would do: This amendment would allow certain disabled veterans, who were not Florida residents prior to entering military service, to qualify for a discount on their property taxes. According to The James Madison Institute, about 74,000 veterans disabled in combat would qualify for a property tax break, prorated based on their level of disability.

If you vote yes: It means you want the state to give a property tax discount to disabled veterans who moved to Florida after entering the military.

If you vote no: It means you do not want to extend the tax discount to disabled veterans who moved to Florida after entering the military.

Arguments for: 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, may allow veterans to stay in their homes longer as they age and stimulate the housing market.

Arguments against: Opponents say state and local governments face mounting budget shortfalls in part, because of diminished property tax returns brought about by the collapse of the housing market. Schools and local governments need to maintain the tax base or consider cuts to public services.

AMENDMENT 3

Title: State government revenue limitation

What it would do: Would set a state revenue limit each year based on a formula that considers population growth and inflation, instead of using the current method of calculating the revenue limit based on personal income.

If you vote yes: It means you want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit.

If you vote no: It means you do not want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit.

Arguments for: Supporters say this amendment would ensure 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.

Arguments against: Critics say during tough economic times, when tax revenues drop and there is a greater need for government services, this amendment would make it impossible for agencies to meet demand, even when there is available revenue. They say it threatens funding for critical government services like health care and education.

AMENDMENT 4

Title: Property tax limitations; property value decline; reduction for non-homestead assessment increases; delay of scheduled repeal

What it would do: Reduce the maximum annual increase in taxable value of non-homestead properties from 10 percent to 5 percent; provide an extra homestead exemption for first-time home buyers; allow lawmakers to prohibit assessment increases for properties with decreasing market values.

If you vote yes: It means you favor the enhanced tax breaks being proposed.

If you vote no: It means you are against the enhanced tax breaks being proposed.

Arguments for: Supporters say this amendment would make Florida property taxation more equitable, stimulate the housing and commercial real estate markets and attract investors to the state.

Arguments against: Opponents say it would create tax disparities and strip an estimated $1 billion from the tax base over the next three years at a time when local governments are struggling to provide basic services.

AMENDMENT 5

Title: State courts

In brief: Amendment 5's main features include Senate confirmation of the governor's nominees for the Florida Supreme Court and more legislative oversight over judicial rules.

If you vote yes: It means you want the Senate to have confirmation power over Supreme Court appointees, and some authority over changes to the rules that govern the state's courts. You also want to grant the house access to the judicial qualifications commission's investigative files on judges.

If you vote no: It means you do not want these proposed changes made to the state's judiciary.

Arguments for: Supporters say the measure would make the appellate court system run more efficiently and add a layer of accountability before Supreme Court justices are appointed.

Arguments against: Opponents say the measure is a dangerous attempt to exert political influence over the judicial branch by giving legislators more authority.

AMENDMENT 6

Title: Prohibition on public funding of abortions; construction of abortion rights

What it would do: This amendment would make the existing federal ban on public funding for most abortions part of the state constitution. It would narrow the scope of a state privacy law that is sometimes used in Florida to challenge abortion laws.

If you vote yes: It means you support putting the existing federal ban on the use of public funds for abortions into the state constitution. It also means you support eliminating the state's privacy right with respect to a woman's right to choose.

If you vote no: It means you are against placing the existing federal ban on using public funds for abortions into the state constitution. It also means you are against eliminating the state's privacy right with respect to a woman's right to choose.

Arguments for: Supporters say this makes it clear Florida prohibits public funding for abortions and gives the public a voice in deciding state abortion law.

Arguments against: Opponents say this amendment discriminates against women, strips away a woman's fundamental right to choose and erodes established law, including right of privacy.

AMENDMENT 7

Note: Amendment 7 was removed from the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled that some of the language was misleading. A legal challenge by opponents led to the rewriting of some of the ballot language and its reinstatement on the ballot as Amendment 8.

AMENDMENT 8

Title: Religious freedom

What it would do: This amendment would remove the prohibition in Florida's Constitution that prevents religious institutions from receiving taxpayer funding. According to the James Madison Institute, Amendment 8 would repeal the so-called "Blaine Amendment," which prohibits the appropriation of public funds, directly or indirectly, in aid of religion. Repeal would allow faith-based entities to receive public funds for providing public services.

If you vote yes: It means you want to remove from the Florida Constitution a prohibition against the state funding religious institutions and replace it with a provision that prohibits the state from denying funding to institutions based on religious affiliations.

If you vote no: It means you want to retain the provision in the Florida Constitution that prohibits the state from funding religious institutions.

Arguments for: Supporters say the amendment would allow the state to fund programs that provide a valuable public service but are currently denied that funding because they are affiliated with religious organizations. They say the current law from 1885 is rooted in anti-Catholic bias.

Arguments against: Opponents say the amendment would eliminate a long-established component of the separation of church and state that prevents the government from funding groups that espouse religious beliefs. They also deny an anti-Catholic bias.

AMENDMENT 9

Title: Homestead property tax exemption for surviving spouse of military veteran or first responder

What it would do: This amendment would grant a full property tax exemption to the surviving spouses of military veterans who die while on active duty and to the surviving spouses of first responders who die in the line of duty.

If you vote yes: It means you want the state to grant the full homestead exemption to the surviving spouses.

If you vote no: It means you do not want the state to grant the full homestead exemption.

Arguments for: It helps the families left behind when a veteran or first responder dies in service to his country or community.

Arguments against: It takes a bite out of the tax revenues schools and local governments need to provide services.

AMENDMENT 10

Title: Tangible personal property tax exemption

What it would do: Amendment 10 would double the tangible personal property tax exemption and allow local governments to increase the exemption. According to the James Madison Institute, it would grant approximately 150,000 Florida businesses an increase in the tax exemption on "tangible personal property" for items such as machinery, office equipment and furniture. It would double the exemption to $50,000, up from $25,000.

If you vote yes: It means you want to double the tangible personal property tax exemption and allow cities and counties to expand the exemptions beyond that.

If you vote no: It means you do not want to double the tangible personal property tax exemption and you do not want to allow cities and counties to expand the exemptions.

Arguments for: Supporters say this amendment will give tax relief to small businesses and help stimulate the economy. They say it provides a way for local governments to offer further reductions in the business tax.

Arguments against: Opponents say this amendment is part of a trickle-down economic theory that does not work. They say it will strip millions in tax revenue from local governments struggling to provide basic services.

AMENDMENT 11

Title: Additional homestead exemption; low-income seniors who maintain long-term residency on property; equal to assessed value

What it would do: This amendment would give an additional property tax exemption to low-income seniors who have lived in their home for more than 25 years. According to the James Madison Institute, it would affect low-income seniors - currently defined as those earning less than $27,030 a year - whose values have risen up to $250,000, thereby making their tax bills beyond their means.

If you vote yes: It means you think cities and counties should have the authority to grant a full property tax discount to eligible seniors.

If you vote no: It means you do not think that cities and counties should have the authority to grant a full property tax discount to eligible seniors.

Arguments for: Supporters say this amendment will benefit elderly residents on fixed incomes. They say the property tax discount can help with medical bills and may allow more elderly residents to stay in their homes as they age.

Arguments against: Opponents say state and local governments face mounting budget shortfalls in part because of diminished property tax returns. Schools and local governments need to maintain the tax base.

AMENDMENT 12

Title: Appointment of student body president to board of governors of the state university system

What it would do: This amendment would change the way the state selects the student representative on the state university system's board of governors, which oversees the university system. According to the James Madison Institute, instead of designating the head of the Florida Student Association, a group that not all state universities join, the representative would be chosen by a council comprising the student body presidents.

If you vote yes: It means you want the state to create a new council of university student presidents from which the student representative to the board of governors will be chosen.

If you vote no: It means you want to keep the current system of selecting the student representative to the board of governors.

Arguments for: Supporters say this amendment guarantees every university has a chance to have its student body president be named as a representative of the board of governors.

Arguments against: Opponents say this amendment is unnecessary.




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