By Samantha Joseph
TREASURE COAST- 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.
Over the next three weeks, Hometown News will outline the amendments in groups due to space consideration. This week will feature the first four amendments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.