Florida's Proposed 2012 Constitutional Amendments Explained
This month, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and NPR affiliates all over Florida gave you a close look at four proposed amendments to Florida's 2012 constitution. You can listen to and read those stories here.
Here's a breakdown of what all 11 ballot measures mean:
TOPIC: Health Care
- YES vote: means the state cannot force any person, employer or health care provider to participate in a health care system -- specifically, the Affordable Care Act -- and cannot tax or fine citizens who do not have insurance and pay for health care costs out of pocket.
- NO vote: means the state may follow the individual mandate created by the Affordable Care Act, which requires every Floridian to obtain health care coverage.
- CONTEXT: This was passed in the Florida before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health care law and maintained that the individual mandate was constitutional. In effect, this ballot measure would change no existing law.
- YES vote: means counties and municipalities will have the option to offer an additional combat-related property tax exemption for totally or partially disabled veterans who were not Florida residents when they entered the military.
- NO vote: means counties and municipalities will not have the option to offer an additional combat-related property tax exemption for the approximately 74,000 totally or partially disabled veterans who did not live in Florida when they enlisted.
- CONTEXT: According to the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs, the maximum number of veterans who will qualify for this exemption is 74,000. As a result, counties and municipalities will collect about $2.4 million less in taxes per year.
TOPIC: State Budget
- YES vote: means the state may set a new limit for the amount of taxes it can collect based on inflation and population change. Any additional tax revenue collected will be put into a “rainy day fund.” Once that fund reaches 10 percent of the total annual budget, the Florida Legislature will lower property taxes or distribute tax relief.
- NO vote: means the state’s tax limitations will not change
- CONTEXT: Colorado tried a similar tax assessment limitation. It was eventually halted there in 2006 because the state was unable to fund services adequately.
- YES vote: means the assessed value of a homesteaded property in the state cannot increase if its fair market value decreases and non-homesteaded or commercial property may only increase in assessed value up to 3 percent per year. Also means the property tax rate will be lowered to 10 percent on rental properties and 5 percent on commercial properties-- and another homestead exemption will be created for first-time home buyers equal to 50 percent of the median home price in the county. First time homebuyers will include anyone who hasn't had a homestead exemption in the past 3 years.
- NO vote: means assessed values of properties may increase regardless of whether the fair market value decreases.
- CONTEXT: The amendment is aimed at making home-owning more affordable and attractive in Florida. Local governments warn this amendment will lead to decreased funding for services in cities and counties.
TOPIC: State Supreme Court
- YES vote: means the Florida Senate will confirm Florida Supreme Court justice appointees and the Legislature can repeal any Supreme Court decision with a majority vote, which is 50 percent plus one. Once the Legislature votes to repeal a ruling, the Supreme Court cannot readopt the decision within three years of the ruling’s repeal.
- NO vote: means Florida Supreme Court rules will stay the same, the Florida Senate will not have authority to confirm Supreme Court appointees, and the Florida Legislature will need a supermajority, or 66 percent, to repeal a Supreme Court decision.
- CONTEXT: Currently, Supreme Court appointments in Florida are solely up to the governor. There is no other elected board that is tasked with approving these appointments. Some say this will improve the appointment process. Others argue it will politicize the state's highest court because politicians will get a say as to who becomes a justice.
- YES vote: means the elimination of the state constitutional right to privacy and the banning of public funding for abortions, except for those intended to save the life of a mother or for rape or incest victims. A YES means no effective change for abortion funding in Florida, since federal law already prohibits public funding for abortions.
- NO vote: means the state constitutional right to privacy remains intact and the state constitution will not specifically ban public funding for abortions. Federal law will continue to prohibit public funding for abortions in Florida.
- CONTEXT: Advocates of removing the state's right to privacy say it will allow the Florida Legislature to pass a law that requires parental consent for a minor seeking an abortion. Previously, Florida's right to privacy has stood in the way of such a law. Opponents of the ballot measure say the new language is unnecessary because the federal government already prohibits public funding of abortions. Opponents also take issue with the state removing a right to privacy because it could limit access to legal abortions in the future.
TOPIC: Public Funds/Religious Groups
- YES vote: means a constitutional ban on giving tax money to religious organizations will be eliminated.
- NO vote: means the state will continue to ban public funding of religious organizations.
- CONTEXT: Currently, the Catholic Church and other religious groups receive public funds in Florida. However, some religious leaders have been challenged for receiving funds because of the state's existing ban. Opponents, which includes civil rights groups, say Amendment 8 is unconstitutional and will drive funds away from public services to religious services.
- YES vote: means counties and municipalities may offer a total or partial property tax exemption to the spouses of military veterans or first responders who died in the line of duty.
- NO vote: means counties and municipalities may not offer a total or partial property tax exemption to the spouses of military veterans or first responders who died in the line of duty.
- YES vote: A YES means the state will exempt from local taxes tangible personal property worth more than $25,000 but less than $50,000 and counties and local municipalities can provide additional tangible property tax exemptions. Also, primarily benefits business and industry, exempting from taxes tangible business purchases of more than $25,000 but less than $50,000.
- NO vote: means the state will not exempt from local taxes tangible personal property -- that is, business purchases including machinery, equipment and furniture -- worth more than $25,000 but less than $50,000.
- CONTEXT: Currently, household goods and money are exempt from tangible personal property tax, as are motor vehicles, boats, airplanes and in most instances mobile homes. Businesses pay most of the state’s tangible personal property tax on purchases unrelated to real estate and buildings, including machinery, equipment and furniture.
- YES vote: means counties and municipalities will have the option to offer an additional homestead tax exemption to low-income senior citizens on homes valued at less than $250,000.
- NO vote: means counties and municipalities will not be able to offer an additional homestead tax exemption to qualifying low-income senior citizens.
- CONTEXT: To qualify, Floridians would have to be at least 65 years of age, have maintained residency at the home for at least 25 years, and must not have household incomes of more than $27,030 per year.
TOPIC: State University System
- YES vote: means the Board of Governors of the State University System will create a council of state university student body presidents and the chair of this new council will become the student member of the Board of Governors of the State University System.
- NO vote: means the president of the Florida Student Association will continue to serve as the student member of the Board of Governors of the State University System and the Board of Governors will not create a council of state university student body presidents.
Explanations of the amendments comes from Votersedge.org-- a nonpartisan guide to ballot measures from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and MapLight.org. Check out Votersedge for information about ballot campaign funding, endorsements, editorials and news about all 11 ballot measures.