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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Florida 2012 Amendments: Know Before You Go.

Florida 2012 Amendment ballot measures

It's crucial to be informed on the proposed constitutional amendments which are on the ballot in the November elections. The wording of the amendments is unnecessarily abstruse and misleading. Of course I would encourage everyone able, willing and planning to vote to conduct their own fact finding research. Although most of the proposals are related to taxes several are unambiguously drafted to curtail basic civil liberties. The Republican controlled congress in Tallahassee is relying on the fact that most voters won't delve any deeper into the intentionally confusing verbiage of the ballot measures. This sort of de facto plutocratic oligarchy is what has led the country down the garden path to its current despondent socio-economic situation. I'll try to briefly outline the amendment and provide links to dissenting opinions of the amendments. The sage advise from the State Department on foreign travel applies well to voting: “know before you go.”

Amendment 1:  Health insurance mandates (SJR 2)

Prevents penalties for not purchasing health care coverage in order to comply with federal health care reforms.

Opponents point to the fact that the United States Supreme Court decision would override the amendment which would in turn make the amendment a moot point.

Amendment 2:   Veterans property taxes (SJR 592)

Expands discount on property taxes to all veterans disabled as a result of combat, not just those who are Florida residents.

Opponents say state and local governments face mounting budget shortfalls in part because of diminished property tax returns brought about by the collapse of the housing market. Schools and local governments need to maintain the tax base or consider cuts to public services

Amendment 3:   Capping state revenue (SJR 958)

Imposes a limit on state revenues based on a formula that includes changes in population and inflation.

Opponents, like the League of Women Voters and AARP, site that the proposed revenue cap could prevent government services from keeping up with demand.

Amendment 4:   Florida Property Tax (SJR 314)

Amends commercial and non-homestead property taxes.

Opponents say it would create tax disparities and strip an estimated $1 billion from the tax base over the next three years at a time when local governments are struggling to provide basic services.

Amendment 5:   Florida Supreme Court Amendment (HJR 7111)

It provides for Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices; give lawmakers control over changes to the rules governing the court system; and direct the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates judicial misconduct complaints, to make its files available to the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
Opposition claim this amendment is a thinly veiled attempt to exert legislative influence over the judicial branch by imbuing the state congress with more autority.

Amendment 6: Abortion (HJR 1179)

To include in the Florida Constitution the federal ban on use of all public funds for abortion. It would also overturn all court decisions that rely on privacy rights in the Florida Constitution to reject abortion restrictions.

Opponents say this amendment discriminates against women, strips away a woman’s fundamental right to choose, and erodes established law, including rights of privacy. It could impact family planning centers and women's health clinics.

Amendment 7:  Freedom of Religion

This amendment was retracted on behest of the Florida chapter of the ACLU who challenged the wording of the amendment. The amendment was rewritten and submitted again as Amendment 8. This is why there will be no amendment 7 on the ballot.

Amendment 8:  Religious Freedom (SJR 1218)

Repeals current prohibition of state funding, directly or indirectly, for religious institutions (e.g. tax payer funding). This provision has prevented school voucher opponents from enacting law to provide state vouchers directly to private schools.

This voucher system would pave the way for tax-payer subsidized religious schooling. Opponents of the amendment point to critical resources, namely financial, being depleted from an already strained education system. The proponents of Amendment 8 claim it will safeguard against alleged religious persecution. Yet, the Florida State Constitution had a separation of church and state since 1885 which makes amendment 8 appear to be fixing a problem that doesn’t exist.

Amendment 9: Florida Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouses

This 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.

Opponents stated that if passed the tax revenues schools and local governments need to provide services will be drastically reduced.

Amendment 10:  Florida Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption
(HJR 381)

Gives a series of property tax breaks to first-time homebuyers, commercial property and those with second homes in Florida. First-time homebuyers would receive a homestead exemption worth up to $200,000 to be phased out over five years. It lowers the cap on the amount a property assessor can raise the assessed value of a commercial property and non-homestead second homes from 10 percent to 5 percent each year.

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.

Amendment 10 would reduce property tax collections across the state by a combined $61 million over its first three years, according to the state Revenue Estimating Conference.

Amendment 11:  Florida Senior Homestead Tax Exemption

This amendment would give an additional property tax exemption to low-income seniors who have lived in their home for more than 25 years.

Opponents stated that if passed the tax revenues schools and local governments need to provide services will be drastically reduced.

Amendment 12:  Florida Appointment Process for State University System Board of Governors Revision

Amendment 12 would replace the president of the Florida Student Association with the chair of the council of state university student body presidents as the student member of the Board of Governors of the State University System. The amendment also requires that the Board of Governors create a council of state university student body presidents

Opponents site the amendment as superfluous and unnecessary.


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