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Monday, October 29, 2012

2012 Florida Constitutional Amendments Plain Language

As I have been commenting, this ballot is quite complicated and has taken me a few hours to get through it. My friend Pete just sent me this excellent resource, which explains the Florida Constitutional Ammendments in plain language. I hope that you find it helpful.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Florida State Social Action Committee
2012 Florida Constitutional Amendments
Plain Language


Amendment 1: Health Care Services
Wording
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to prohibit laws or rules from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage; permit a person or an employer to purchase lawful health care services directly from a health care provider; permit a health care provider to accept direct payment from a person or an employer for lawful health care services; exempt persons, employers, and health care providers from penalties and taxes for paying directly or accepting direct payment for lawful health care services; and prohibit laws or rules from abolishing the private market for health care coverage of any lawful health care service.

In plain English
Florida will repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It aims to prevent laws that compel a person or employer to obtain or provide health care coverage.

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you want the Florida Constitution to include a provision that prohibits the government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you support the Affordable Health Care Act and do not want the Florida Constitution to include a provision that prohibits the government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

Amendment 2: Veterans Disabled Due to Combat Injury; Homestead Property Tax Discount
Wording
Proposing an amendment to Section 6 of Article VII and the creation of Section 32 of Article XII of the State Constitution to expand the availability of the property discount on the homesteads of veterans who became disabled as the result of a combat injury to include those who were not Florida residents when they entered the military and schedule the amendment to take effect January 1, 2013

In plain English
This amendment would allow certain disabled veterans, who were not Florida residents prior to entering military service, to qualify for a discount on their property taxes. 

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you want the state to give a property tax discount to disabled veterans who moved to Florida after entering the military.


If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you do not want to extend the tax discount to disabled veterans who moved to Florida after entering the military.

Amendment 3: State Government Revenue Limitation
Wording
This proposed amendment to the State Constitution replaces the existing state revenue limitation based on Florida personal income growth with a new state revenue limitation based on inflation and population changes. Under the amendment, state revenues, as defined in the amendment, collected in excess of the revenue limitation must be deposited into the budget stabilization fund until the fund reaches its maximum balance.

In plain English
This amendment would set a state revenue limit each year based on a formula that considers population growth and inflation instead of using the current method of calculating the revenue limit based on personal income. 

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit.

If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you do not want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit. Opponents worry that the revenue cap could result in cuts to essential government services, government payrolls, and funding for schools.

Amendment 4: Property Tax Limitations; Property Value Decline; Reduction for Non-homestead Assessment Increases; Delay of Scheduled Repeal
Wording
This would amend Florida Constitution Article VII, Section 4 and Section 6. It also would amend Article XII In certain circumstances. The law requires the assessed value of homestead and specified non-homestead property to increase when the just value of the property decreases. Therefore, this amendment provides that the Legislature may, by general law, provide that the assessment of homestead and specified non-homestead property may not increase if the just value of that property is less than the just value of the property on the preceding January 1, subject to any adjustment in the assessed value due to changes, additions, reductions, or improvements to such property which are assessed as provided by general law


In plain English
Amends commercial and non-homestead (second homes) property taxes by mandating that governments would not be able to increase the assessed value of homestead property if the fair market value of the property decreases. It also provides an additional homestead exemption and shifts part of the tax burden from commercial owners to residential owners.

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you favor the enhanced tax breaks being proposed. Proponents include developers and builders who do not want to see property taxes increase while the fair market value of property decreases. One home residential owners could possibly face a greater tax burden.

If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you are against the enhanced tax breaks for commercial property owners and persons with multi residential homes being proposed. Opponents include municipal and county governments because it will reduce revenues needed to operate public services. Some advocates of public schools oppose it because school funding through property taxes will decline

Amendment 5: State Courts
Wording 
Proposing a revision of Article V of the State Constitution relating to the judiciary, the State Constitution authorizes the Supreme Court to adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts. The Constitution further provides that a rule of court may be repealed by the general law enacted by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature. This proposed constitutional revision eliminates the requirement [of] a two-thirds vote of each house, thereby providing that the Legislature may repeal a rule of court by a majority vote Under current law, the Governor appoints a justice of the Supreme Court from a list of nominees provided by a judicial nominating commission, and appointments by the Governor are not subject to confirmation. This revision requires Senate confirmation of a justice of the Supreme Court

In plain English
Gives the Legislature increased control over the judicial branch and requires that all appointments to the Florida Supreme Court be subject to Senate confirmation. It also divides the current court into a Supreme Court of Civil Appeals and a Supreme Court of Criminal Appeals, each with five appointed justices. The most senior justices would be assigned to the latter court. This measure would 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. 

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you want the Senate to have confirmation power over Supreme Court appointees, and some authority over changes to the rules that govern the state’s courts. You also want to grant the House access to Judicial Qualifications Commission’s investigative files on judges. This effort would politicize Florida Supreme Court Justices and make them vulnerable to the whims of partisan politicians.



If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you do not want these proposed changes made to the state’s judiciary. The Florida Bar and judges across the state oppose the measure, believing it disrupts the balance of power by providing the Legislature with too much control over the courts (under this amendment, they only need a majority vote rather than a two-thirds vote to change the law) and creates an unusual and unnecessary two-court system. It is also argued that the measure attempts to politicize the criminal court by pushing older, liberal justices to the civil court.

Amendment 6: Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions
Wording
This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion. This prohibition does not apply to an expenditure required by federal law, a case in which a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, or a case of rape or incest. This proposed amendment provides that the State Constitution may not be interpreted to create broader rights to an abortion than those contained in the U.S. Constitution.

In plain English
Prohibits public funds for any abortion or for health benefits that include any coverage of abortion. It also states that Florida’s Constitution cannot be interpreted to include broader rights to abortion than what is contained in the U.S. Constitution. This amendment would make the existing federal ban on public funding for most abortions part of the state constitution. It would narrow the scope of a state privacy law that is sometimes used in Florida to challenge abortion laws.

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you support putting the existing federal ban on the use of public funds for abortions into the state constitution; and you support eliminating the state’s privacy right with respect to a woman’s right to choose. Various pro-life groups support the measure and maintain that abortion is not a woman’s right but that it is murder. They also believe that no public funds should be used in any abortion service.

If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you are against placing the existing federal ban on using public funds for abortions into the state constitution; and you are against eliminating the state’s privacy right with respect to a woman’s right to choose.  Various pro-choice groups oppose the measure and maintain that women have reproductive rights and the state government should not interfere with a woman’s personal health care decisions.

Amendment 7: Religious Freedom
NOTE: Amendment 7 was removed from the ballot by court order on grounds that it was unconstitutional. However, the legislature passed a law that gave the Florida Attorney General the authority to rewrite the proposal. This was done by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the measure was placed back on the ballot as Amendment 8. This is the reason there is no Amendment 7 on the 2012 ballot.

Amendment 8: Religious Freedom
Wording 
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, government benefits, funding or other support, except as required by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

In plain English
This amendment would remove the prohibition in Florida’s Constitution that prevents religious institutions from receiving taxpayer funding. Allowing public dollars (taxpayer money) to be used for religious events.

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you want to remove from the Florida Constitution a prohibition against the state funding religious institutions and replace it with a provision that prohibits the state from denying funding to institutions based on religious affiliations. Supporters claim that faith-based groups are discriminated against because they cannot use taxpayer money and may be barred from participating in public programs in the capacity of a religious organization.

If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you want to retain the provision in the Florida Constitution that prohibits the state from funding religious institutions. Opponents worry that the measure would allow taxpayer funds to go to any religious organizations and public education money to go to any religious schools. This amendment would give religious organizations full access to government services and programs without the government oversight governmental agencies face.

Amendment 9: Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder
Wording 
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature to provide by general law ad valorem homestead property tax relief to the surviving spouse of a military veteran who died from service-connected causes while on active duty or to the surviving spouse of a first responder who died in the line of duty. The amendment authorizes the Legislature to totally exempt or partially exempt such surviving spouses homestead property from ad valorem taxation.

In plain English
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.

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you want the state to grant the full homestead exemption to the surviving spouses of a deceased veteran or first responder by reducing their property taxes.

If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you do not want the state to grant the full homestead exemption. Florida has budget troubles in that it does not raise enough revenue now to cover its budget and when revenue is lost in one area it has to be recouped in other taxable areas.

Amendment 10: Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption
Wording
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to provide an exemption from ad valorem taxes levied by counties, municipalities, school districts, and other local governments on tangible personal property if the assessed value of an owner’s tangible personal property is greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000.

In plain English
This amendment would double the tangible personal property tax exemption and allow local governments to increase the exemption.
Provides an exemption from local government taxes on personal property that is valued between $25,000 and $50,000.

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you want to double the tangible personal property tax exemption and allow cities and counties to expand the exemptions beyond that. Increasing the Homestead Exemption would the financial burden of lower socio-economic citizens. 

If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you do not want to double the tangible personal property tax exemption and you do not want to allow cities and counties to expand the exemptions. When revenue is lost in one area it has to be recouped in other taxable areas.

Amendment 11: Additional Homestead Exemption: Low-Income Seniors Who Maintain Long-term Residency on Property; Equal to Assessed Value
Wording
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law and subject to conditions set forth in the general law, to allow counties and municipalities to grant an additional homestead tax exemption equal to the assessed value of homestead property if the property has a just value less than $250,000 to an owner who has maintained permanent residency on the property for not less than 25 years, who has attained age 65, and who has a low household income as defined by general law.



In plain English
Authorizes counties and municipalities to offer additional tax exemptions on homes of low-income seniors. This amendment would give an additional property tax exemption to low-income seniors who have lived in their home for more than 25 years.

If You Vote Yes:
A “yes” vote means you think cities and counties should have the authority to grant a full property tax discount to eligible seniors. Proponents argue that seniors on a fixed income need the relief offered by this additional tax exemption.

If You Vote No:
A “no” vote means you do not think that cities and counties should have the authority to grant a full property tax discount to eligible seniors. Opponents claim that Florida’s budget troubles will only get worse with less revenue, and necessary public services will be cut. They also worry that, with so many amendments on the ballot that reduce revenues, even the most essential public services will be in jeopardy.

Amendment 12: Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System
Wording
Replaces 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. Requires that the Board of Governors organize such Council of State University Student Body Presidents.

In plain English
Revises the selection process for the student member of the Board of Governors of the State University System. The student representative used to be the president of the Florida Student Association but would now be the chair of a council of state university student body presidents.

If You Vote YES?
A “yes” vote means a more democratic and inclusive process because the representative to the Board of Governors will come from a new association of student government presidents. These individuals are students who were elected by their campuses.

If You Vote NO?
A “no” vote means you believe the current system works fine and does not need to be reformed.

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