|CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS Early voting is beginning across the state so we wanted to give you some information on the thirteen constitutional amendments that will be on the general election ballot. Many of the amendments have weathered some legal storms. Several groups have challenged the validity of the measures, particularly since the Constitutional Revision Commission grouped what many consider conflicting subjects into a few amendments.
The Florida Supreme Court has removed from the ballot Amendment 8, which would have included measures setting school board term limits and duties, required civic literacy in high school, and allowed the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not under the jurisdiction of local school boards.
Former chief justice Harry Lee Anstead filed a lawsuit in the Florida Supreme Court challenging several additional proposals as being too vague, misleading, or violating first amendment rights. The Court has approved Amendments 6 (Marsy’s Law concerning victims’ rights), Amendment 10 (dealing with governmental operations), and Amendment 13 (abolishing greyhound racing). And in early October, the Court approved Amendments 7 (dealing with first responders), Amendment 9 (prohibition of offshore drilling, and vaping), and Amendment 11 (dealing with property rights).
Here are brief summaries of the proposals that as of now will appear on the November ballot:
Amendment 1 Sponsored by the Legislature, this amendment would increase the homestead property exemption on the portion of home values between $100,000 and $125,000, meaning the $25,000 between $100,000 and $125,000 of a home’s value would be exempted from property taxes other than school district levied.
Amendment 2 Sponsored by the Legislature, this amendment would permanently retain provisions currently in effect that limit property tax assessment increases on certain non-homestead property to 10 percent a year (except for school district taxes). The amendment would remove the scheduled repeal of those provisions in 2019.
Amendment 3 Sponsored by Voters in Charge, this amendment would ensure Florida voters have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.
Amendment 4 Sponsored by Floridians for a Fair Democracy, this amendment would restore voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, after they complete their sentence terms, including parole or probation.
Amendment 5 Sponsored by the Legislature, this amendment would limit the state’s ability to impose, authorize or raise state taxes or fees without the consent by supermajority, defined as two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber.
The following amendments were sponsored by the Constitutional Revision Commission:
Amendment 6 This amendment would create constitutional rights for victims of crimes, including the right to be notified of developments in criminal cases against suspects and the right to be heard in legal proceedings. It would also require judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to interpretations by government agencies. The same amendment would also increase the mandatory retirement age for state justices and judges from 70 to 75.
Amendment 7 This amendment would require payment of death benefits and/or waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain officers, first responders and military members who are killed while performing official duties.
The amendment would also require supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose authorized fees and would establish the existing state college system as a constitutional entity.
Amendment 9 This amendment would prohibit drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state waters between the mean high-water line and the state’s outermost territorial lines.
Also included in this amendment is adding vapor-generating electronic devices to the current prohibition on tobacco smoking in certain enclosed, indoor workplaces.
Amendment 10 Amendment 10 encompasses three issues: it would require all charter-county governments to have elected constitutional officers; it would move the annual commencement date for the legislative session from March to January in even-numbered years; and it would create an Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism within the state’s Department of Law Enforcement.
Amendment 11 This amendment would remove language prohibiting resident aliens ineligible for citizenship from owning property. It would also remove obsolete language authorizing a high-speed rail system. Additionally, the amendment would revise language to clarify that the repeal of a criminal statute does not affect the prosecution of any crime committed before said repeal.
Amendment 12 Amendment 12 would impose a six-year ban on lobbying by former state and local elected officials and state agency heads. Additionally, it would create a new ethics standard prohibiting public officials from obtaining a “disproportionate benefit” from their actions while in office.
Amendment 13 This amendment would ban commercial greyhound racing at Florida tracks after December 31, 2020.