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Oct 22nd
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Written by Jack King - BT Contributor   
October 2012

Politicians with agendas have crammed 11 constitutional amendments onto the ballot

Ibigstock-Mt-Rushmore-23459675n my September column, I talked about how Miami elections always fascinated me. Unfortunately this fascination is usually for all the wrong reasons. The November 6 election is no exception. I’ll leave the big races to your own devices, but there is one part of the election that needs a closer look.

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers spent an inordinate amount of time framing 11 new amendments to the Florida Constitution. They should have been working on the serious budget issues the state was facing, but instead they gave us 11 proposed amendments that do nothing worthwhile for the citizens of Florida. Some border on the ridiculous.

Here they are, with summaries by the League of Women Voters of Florida, which opposes all of them:

Health Care Services This amendment would allow Florida to opt out of federal health care reform (i.e., the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). Here we have the legislature trying to usurp power from the federal government. This is just a grandstand play for the right-wing base.

Veterans Disabled Due to Combat Injury; Homestead Property Tax Discount This amendment expands the homestead exemption to disabled veterans who were not Florida residents when they entered military service. Why is this needed? To get homestead exemption in Florida, all you have to do is to move here and buy a house.

State Government Revenue Limitation This amendment replaces the existing state revenue limitation based on Florida personal income growth with a new state revenue limitation based on inflation and population changes. No reason for this. The current system works just fine.

Property Tax Limitation; Property Value Decline; Reduction for Non-Homestead Assessment Increases; Delay of Scheduled Repeal This amendment would reduce the annual growth in assessment limitation on certain nonhomestead property from ten percent to five percent. It would prohibit increases in the assessed value of homestead property and certain nonhomestead property when the market value of the property decreases. It also gives first-time homesteaders an additional exemption equal to 50 percent of the median just value of the property; this exemption diminishes to zero over a five year period. This amendment would also give out-of-state residents the benefit of the homestead tax exemption.

State Courts This amendment adds a requirement that Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor must also be confirmed by the state Senate in order to take office. It also authorizes the repeal of a court rule by a simple majority of the legislature instead of the 2/3 majority now required. The amendment also would allow the state House of Representatives to review all files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission without regard to whether the request is specifically related to impeachment considerations. This amounts to a takeover of the state court system by the legislature. They get mad when those nasty judges rule against them.

Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights Federal law prohibits the expenditure of federal funds for most abortions. This amendment would enshrine those prohibitions in the state constitution. There is another provision in the amendment that would stop the use of the state constitution’s privacy clause in abortion cases; courts would no longer be able to use the clause in defending abortion rights. Another case of legislators wanting to be judges.

Religious Freedom This amendment would repeal a 126-year-old provision in the state constitution that prohibits taxpayer funding of religious institutions. If passed, the amendment would allow the state to use taxpayer monies to fund religious institutions and schools. What a great idea! Let’s use public money for religion! But which ones?

Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder This amendment grants full homestead property tax relief to the surviving spouses of military veterans and first responders killed in the line of duty. The deceased must have been a permanent resident of Florida as of January 1 of the year they died. Again, why does this need to be in the state constitution?

Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption This amendment affects businesses only and pertains to equipment or furniture used in a business. Under current law, the first $25,000 of tangible personal property is exempt from taxation; this amendment will raise that exemption to $50,000.

Additional Homestead Exemption for Low-Income Seniors who Maintain Long-Term Residency on Property; Equal to Assessed Value” This amendment grants full homestead property tax relief to low-income seniors who have lived in their home for at least 25 years. This can be done by legislative action and shouldn’t be in the constitution.

Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System: The state university system is governed by a 17-member Board of Governors. Currently the president of the Florida Student Association is a member of the board. This amendment would create a new council composed of college student body presidents. Are you kidding me? The legislature can do this without cementing it in the constitution.

 

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