Florida Amendments 2008 – Voter’s Guide

In the general election on November 4th (or earlier if you’re voting early), there are 6 proposed amendments (numbers 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8 ) to the Florida Constitution. Here are some quick facts for you:

Each amendment proposed affects some language in the Constitution of the State of Florida. You will be voting “yes” to approve the proposed amendment or “no” to disapprove.

Proposed Amendment 1

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution from Article I, Section 2.

On your ballot:

Declaration of Rights

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to delete provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want the Legislature to no longer be authorized to affect the ability of aliens (foreigners) who cannot obtain citizenship in the US to own or deal in real estate.
  • Vote “no” if you want the Florida Legislature to continue to have the authority to regulate this activity.

Proposed Amendment 2 – Florida Marriage Protection Amendment

This amendment would add a new section to the Constitution.

On your ballot:

This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

The direct financial impact this amendment will have on state and local government revenues and expenditures cannot be determined, but is expected to be minor.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want the traditional definition of marriage as “one man and one woman” to be the working definition of the term in the State of Florida
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to keep the traditional definition of word “marriage”

For more information, read our position on Florida Amendment 2

Proposed Amendment 3

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Sections 3 and 4 and would add a new section in Article XI.

On your ballot:

Changes and Improvements Not Affecting the Assessed Value of Residential Real Property

Authorizes the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit consideration of changes or improvements to residential real property which increase resistance to wind damage and installation of renewable energy source devices as factors in assessing the propertyâ€s value for ad valorem taxation purposes. Effective upon adoption, repeals the existing renewable energy source device exemption no longer in effect.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want to allow the Florida Legislature to have the authority to prevent upgrades to homes in Florida that are installed specifically for the purpose of A) protecting it from wind damage (hurricanes and tornadoes) or B) adding alternative energy (such as solar) from changing the value of the home for the purpose of property tax assessments. In short: if you spend money to protect your house, you won’t be penalized with property taxes (assuming the Legislature actually uses this new-found authority and passes a law to prohibit you from being taxed on this kind of thing).
  • Vote “no” if you do not want the Legislature to have the power to prevent you from being taxed on these upgrades.

Proposed Amendment 4

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Sections 3 & 4  and in Article XII, Section 28

On your ballot:

Property Tax Exemption of Perpetually Conserved Land; Classification and Assessment of Land Used for Conservation

Requires Legislature to provide a property tax exemption for real property encumbered by perpetual conservation easements or other perpetual conservation protections, defined by general law. Requires Legislature to provide for classification and assessment of land used for conservation purposes, and not perpetually encumbered, solely on the basis of character or use. Subjects assessment benefit to conditions, limitations, and reasonable definitions established by general law. Applies to property taxes beginning in 2010.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want land owned by taxpayers in Florida which cannot be developed because of conservation easements (e.g. the land has been declared a natural wildlife habitat) or because the owners have chosen to use the land for the purposes of conservation (e.g. there isn’t a conservation easement, but the property is being used like there is one) from being taxed like other land.
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to provide this tax exemption.

Proposed Amendment 6

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Section 4 and would add a new section in Article XII.

On your ballot:

Assessment of Working Waterfront Property Based Upon Current Use

Provides for assessment based upon use of land used predominantly for commercial fishing purposes; land used for vessel launches into waters that are navigable and accessible to the public; marinas and drystacks that are open to the public; and water-dependent marine manufacturing facilities, commercial fishing facilities, and marine vessel construction and repair facilities and their support activities, subject to conditions, limitations, and reasonable definitions specified by general law.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want waterfront land used for the purposes listed above to have its property tax assessments reflect its usage. In other words, it’s one thing to operate a marina or a boat launch on your waterfront property. It’s another thing to build luxury condos there. This amendment would allow for the property taxes assessed to account for this type of distinction.
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to provide this distinction for assessed property taxes.

Proposed Amendment 8

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Section 9.

On your ballot:

Local Option Community College Funding

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require that the Legislature authorize counties to levy a local option sales tax to supplement community college funding; requiring voter approval to levy the tax; providing that approved taxes will sunset after 5 years and may be reauthorized by the voters.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you the Legislature to allow counties to use a sales tax hike to raise money for community colleges. The counties would have to allow citizens to vote and approve the sales tax increase, which would automatically expire in 5 years unless a new vote authorizes it to be renewed (in 5-year increments).
  • Vote “no” if you do not want the Legislature to allow counties to levy sales tax increases for this purpose.

Was This Useful?

I hope it was helpful for you to have a preview of what’s on your ballot and some simple explanations of what these amendments are all about. If so, please leave a comment!

Florida Amendment 2 – Voter’s Guide

I’ve held off for a long time writing about Florida Amendment Two, in part because the issue seems so polarized for reasons that can be counterproductive to reasonable, rational debate.

I do have a position on it, however, and I feel like the time has come to make it known. Before I do so, here are a couple of fundamentals just for the sake of covering the facts and making them abundantly clear.

Facts on Amendment Two

First, here’s the text of Florida Amendment 2:

“In as much as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Secondly, let’s make it clear. The amendment is deceptively simple. It defines the word “marriage” by the historic, traditional definition of the term as it relates to monogamous heterosexual legal union.

Now for some thoughts:

  • It is ludicrous for Amendment Two — or any amendment of its kind — to ever be required.
  • But this is precisely why I believe it is important that Florida passes Amendment 2.
  • Setting aside all the rhetoric representing “left” or “right,” it is critical that this amendment be passed because it puts a stop to the disgusting trend of undermining the law simply by redefining terms.

In case you’re new to this particular strategy, it happens when lawmakers or courts (judges) — or anyone else, for that matter — decide to push a particular agenda in a less-than-forthright manner. They decide to substitute a “new” or “modern” definition for a term whose meaning has been long established so that they can cause existing laws or established legal framework to come to mean something quite different than intended.

For the record, I am in favor of creating an environment that addresses the legal needs of today.  It is dangerous, however, to do so by this method. Essentially any law or legal traditon, including any right — whether property right, moral right, or civil right — is subject to being eroded or stolen when we resort to “redefining terms.”

So, for those who believe in the fundamental rule of law, this amendment is important.  Send a message loud and clear to the judges and others attempting to influence legislation that we, as Americans, will not tolerate underhanded methods that bypass the legal means to bring changes to our laws.

Amendment Two, if passed, will send this message.

The Bottom Line on Amendment 2

I urge you to vote for Florida Amendment 2.  Let’s bring the complex legal issues that are raised by the debate around Amendment Two before the legislative bodies that have jurisdiction and handle them as intended by the Florida Constitution — not by circumventing them through semantics.

Florida Amendment 1 – Voter’s Guide

Well… the post title might be a little on the ambitious side. I certainly can’t claim to cover every aspect of this proposed amendment in this setting. However, there are a couple of key points worth considering.

Lots of Hype

First of all, there has been a lot of fluff on both sides of this issue. Here are some bottom line facts for you:

  • Amendment One is a tax cut.
  • The taxable basis for your home’s value — if you already have (or qualify for and ultimately receive) the homestead exemption — will be reduced by $50,000 rather than by the current amount of $25,000 if the amendment passes. This means that no matter what the millage rate in your area, your property taxes will be based upon a lower number than today.
  • Amendment 1 is opposed by Florida’s unions: the teachers, the firemen, and the AFL-CIO. These are the people whose jobs are dependent upon your taxes. They have been threatened with job cuts and salary reductions if it passes, so it’s no wonder that they’re campaigning against it. See my previous post on Amendment 1 to learn what the Sarasota School Board did to threaten its workers.
  • Amendment 1 is a tax cut.
  • Some people argue that Amendment One represents insufficient tax reform, and therefore it shouldn’t be passed. This is a little like going to the emergency room with a broken bone showing through your skin and having a doctor tell you, “We can stop the bleeding, but your bone will still be broken.” Naturally, you stop the bleeding first (in case you’re medically challenged, it is possible to bleed to death). Then, when the bleeding has stopped, you figure out how best to help the bone heal.
  • Did I mention that it’s a tax cut?
  • Florida’s housing market has been having a hard time lately… or hadn’t you noticed? One massive deterrent to purchasing a second (or different) home as a Floridian is the “hit” you’ll take on property taxes due to the change in the assessed value of the property you purchase. Amendment One allows you to take your “Save Our Homes” property tax limitations with you to your next house. This makes the property tax situation a little less painful. It can make a substantial difference on a given transaction. More people buying houses means a better housing market. A better housing market means all those Realtors (R), mortgage brokers, title agents, property insurance salespeople, builders, remodelers, home improvement stores, et cetera all do better. They, in turn, spend money with your small business, big business, tourist attraction, theme park, and — yes — they pay more in taxes.
  • Amendment 1 could actually result in more revenue to local governments and even the State government, but it will happen naturally because people choose to spend money rather than having it squeezed out of them through exorbitant property taxes.
  • But… all of that being said, Amendment One is still a tax cut.

The Bottom Line on Amendment One

I’m not a big fan of President Bush’s performance in office — not at all. That being said, I’m going to steal from a page in his final (can anyone say, “Thank God!”?) State of the Union Address. If you want to pay more in taxes and those schools, fire departments and local governments to have more money, they accept checks and money orders. (Some of them probably take Visa, too.) Go ahead. Send it to them.

But do it because you want to do it. Don’t do it because a revenuer assessed it from you.

Oh… One More Really Important Detail

The January 29th Presidential Primary is your only chance to vote on Amendment One. Get out there and vote, will you?

Amendment One: Sarasota Schools Use Scare Tactics on Teachers and Staff, Distribute Propaganda

Parents of Sarasota County students can expect to get this little gem (no doubt paid for by our already poorly spent tax dollars) today when their kids come home from school (assuming that it survives the trip home).

According to a source from inside the school system, this 2-sided 4-color (read: expensive to print) flier was distributed today to teachers and staff of the schools along with a memo threatening salary reductions and staff cuts next year if Florida’s Amendment One passes during Tuesday’s Presidential Primaries. The School Board is pressuring its staff to vote “no” and shifting blame to voters and the State legislature for its financial woes.

The flier itself masquerades as a balanced look at the issue, but ultimately threatens the local taxpayers (parents) with additional tax increases in the future which it says will be needed to “maintain revenues.”

Well, guess what? We, the voters and property owners in this County have something to say about your revenues. And ultimately we aren’t interested in whether you “maintain” your revenues — we want you to be accountable for the lack of performance we see time and time again. More money will not solve the fundamental problems entrenched in the bureaucracy.

One good thing: the flier encourages people to get out and vote. Let’s do it Tuesday, January 29th!