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.
The final installment features amendments nine through 12. The first four amendments were summarized here Oct. 19 and amendments five through eight were summarized here Oct. 26.
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: Homestead property tax exemption for surviving spouse of military veteran or first responder
What it would do: 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.
Title: Tangible personal property tax exemption
What it would do: 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.
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.
Title: Appointment of student body president to board of governors of the state university system
What it would do: 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 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 their student body president be named as a representative of the board of governors.
Arguments against: Opponents say this amendment is unnecessary.