SparkNotes of the Florida Amendments

As an American citizen in today’s society, it’s very unlikely that you got through the last several months without running across an ad or person encouraging you to vote. But how are you supposed to vote if you’re not aware of the issues? With all the political jargon getting tossed around along with the hearsay coming from both sides, it can be hard to determine where you really stand.

The best way to determine where you stand is to take the time to educate yourself. This sounds overwhelming because there is so much going around, and where does one really begin? The answer is different for everyone, but I decided that the best place to begin was with the issues pressing upon us now. With Election Day around the corner, I’ve compiled some information here on a few of the amendments that Florida residents will be able to vote on come November 6. Because the Supreme Court stepped in to remove Amendment 8 from this election, there are 12 in total.

Now, a disclaimer is needed here. No one wants to read endless text, so this article will not go fully in-depth with the issues. It’s meant to outline and highlight the issues so that you can understand the gist of how your vote will be taken into consideration. If you want to know the full effects of these amendments, it is on you to do the deep dive, just like it is on you to get out of the polls to vote.

Amendment 1: Homestead Property Tax Exemption

This amendment has to do with property tax exemptions. Overall, it will increase the amount excluded in property taxes. In short, if a home is worth $120,000 or more, there’s a full exemption of $25,000. It will not exempt any school district taxes.

Voting yes will allow some properties to have $25,000 exemptions in their property taxes so long as the homes are valued at $100,000 or more. Homes that do not meet the criteria would be unaffected. 

Voting no will keep the property tax exemption the way they currently are, which currently total at $50,000.

Other sources to look at would be the Florida Association of Counties, who believe that the tax money will have to come from somewhere else. Some opponents of this bill would include the Florida Education Association, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Progress Florida.

Amendment 2: Property Tax Limitations

This amendment limits tax bills, placing a permanent cap of 10% increase annually on property.  

Voting yes would approve this annual cap on property taxes.

Voting no would mean that there would not be an annual cap on property taxes.

The League of Women Voters of Florida is a group that is outwardly opposing this amendment. Support for the amendment includes the Florida Association of Realtors, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Florida TaxWatch.

Amendment 3: Gambling Control

This amendment removes the right of legislation to control the expansion of gambling and casinos in Florida. Instead, it gives those powers to the citizens of Florida to decide whether or not casinos can expand further.

Voting yes will give voters the right to control the expansion of casinos and gambling in Florida.

Voting no means that casino gambling will continue to be controlled by legislation.

Disney Worldwide Services, No Casinos Inc., and the Seminole Tribe of Florida are just a few among the list of supporters. The list of opponents on this list is trivial.

Amendment 4: Voting Restoration 

This amendment restores the rights to criminals who have completed their entire sentence, including parole, with the exception of felony sex offenders and murderers. 

Voting yes returns the right to vote to criminals who have completed their sentence.

Voting no will retain that anyone with the title of criminal does not have the right to vote in Florida.

This amendment has gotten some media attention from people like John Oliver and brands like Ben & Jerry’s. There is a long list of supporters beyond that, and the main group on the opposing side is called Floridians for Sensible Voting Rights Policy.

Amendment 5: State Taxes and Fees

A super-majority vote (2/3) will be required by the Legislature to increase state taxes based on this amendment.

Voting yes means that Legislature will only increase state taxes when there is a super-majority.

Voting no means that only a majority (50%) of Legislature is needed to increase state taxes and fees.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida TaxWatch are included on the list of supporters for this amendment. Opposers include Progress Florida, Florida Policy Institute, and Southern Poverty Law Center.

Amendment 6: Crime Victims Rights and Judges

The purpose of this amendment is to expand the rights of victims in the state Constitution. It will also increase the retirement age of judges from 70 to 75, and force courts and judges to stop relying on government agencies to interpret laws for them.

Voting yes means that courts and judges will interpret laws themselves, increase the retirement age for judges, and give a version of Miranda Rights to victims of criminal activity.

Voting no means that government agencies will continue to interpret laws for courts and judges, keep the retirement age for judges at 70, and retain existing victims rights.

There are two groups of supporters of this amendment, and they are 37 Florida sheriffs as well as Florida Smart Justice. The opposing list includes ACLU of Florida, Florida Public Defender Association, and Southern Poverty Law Center.

Amendment 7: Survivor Benefits and Public Colleges and Universities

Families of first responders and military will receive benefits if they lose their lives in the line of duty from this amendment. It will also control the college system in Florida by passing a rule saying that a super-majority (2/3) of votes will be needed in order to increase student fees.

Voting yes will grant benefits to families of first responders and military who lose their lives, as well as make it harder for universities to increase their student fees.

Voting no will not alter who is eligible for death benefits, which continues to exclude paramedics and medical techs, and will allow universities to increase their student fees with the simple vote of 50%.

The main group supporting this amendment is the Association of Florida Colleges. Opposition includes the Florida Education Association and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Amendment 9: Offshore Drilling and Vaping Indoors

This amendment prohibits the drilling of oil and gas within eight nautical miles of Florida’s shorelines. It will not prevent the transportation of it through the area. It will also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes at indoor workplaces.

Voting yes will ban the drilling of oil and gas in Florida water and restrict the areas where vaping can be done.

Voting no does not alter any current laws on drilling oil, and keep restrictions on vaping out of the Florida Constitution.

Supporters of this bill include the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Gulf Restoration Network, and Florida Policy Institute. Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, and Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association are groups that oppose the amendment.

Amendment 10: Structure and Operation of Local and State Government

This amendment will enforce that the State Legislature has regularly scheduled meetings. To be precise, there will be a January meeting in even-numbered years. This amendment will also create an Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism and mandate that there be a state Department of Veteran’s Affairs. All counties will also elect their public officers.

Voting yes will enforce that State Legislature meets on a regular basis, and that an Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism is created. Public officers will also be elected throughout Florida.

Voting no will mean that things stay the same, giving the Legislature the option of deciding when they meet, and this will mean that all counties will continue to appoint or elect their officers as they choose.

The only opposition of this amendment is the League of Women Voters of Florida. Supporters include Clerks of the Courts, Florida’s Elected Tax Collectors, and the Property Appraisers.

Amendment 11: Property Rights, Obsolete Provision, Criminal Statutes

There are three parts to this amendment. Part one will give the right to non-citizens from buying and selling property in Florida because the state will no longer be able to prohibit them from it. There is currently language that requires any suspect to be prosecuted for the law that they are accused of breaking, even if that law is changed by the legislature; the second part would get rid of that language. The third part just removes any language having to do with a high-speed rail in Florida.

Voting yes would allow for all three of these parts to pass.

Voting no would give the state permission to restrict property rights of non-citizens, continue to prosecute suspects of the charges they were brought in on even if legislation changes, and the term “high-speed rail” will stay in the constitution.

There are not any opponents openly against this amendment, but current supporters of this amendment include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Now, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Amendment 12: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

This amendment would increase the amount of time that people in public offices would have to wait before they could lobby the state government. Currently, they have to wait two years; this amendment would increase that number to six. In addition to that, there would be an expansion in other ethics rules that pertain to public officials and employees.

Voting yes would increase the amount of time before a public official could lobby state government and expanding other ethics rules.

Voting no would keep things the way they are now.

Supporters of this amendment include Common Cause, Florida Policy Institute, and Integrity Florida. The main opponent of this amendment is the Chamber of Commerce.

Amendment 13: Dog Racing

The amendment is a motion put forth to ban wagering on any type of dog racing by December 31, 2020. While it bans betting on dog races, it will allow these places to continue to have gambling in other forms, such as poker rooms.

Voting yes will put this motion forward to reduce gambling on dog racing with hopes that it will all end by 2020.

Voting no will allow gambling on dog racing to continue in the state of Florida.

Some sources to look into on this would be the supporters, such as Grey2K USA and the League of Women Voters of Florida, as well as groups that oppose it, such as the Florida Greyhound Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

There is so much going on in our society today, and so much that we need to be aware of. While this outline is a bit dry and straightforward, there is so much more to these issues than all that is presented here. I've skimmed the surface here. As a citizen and someone who wants to believe in the best, I urge you to delve deeper into these and other issues that you care about, as well as go and exercise your civic duty.

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