Amendment 1 - Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption:
What does it do? Some homeowners will save a few hundred dollars on their property taxes. More renters might buy property. The Florida Associations of Counties opposes it and estimates it will cause a loss of $752.7 million dollars in local tax revenue to local counties and municipalities. Florida Tax Watch also opposes the amendment and estimates that 76% of property owners in Florida will not benefit from the change.
Recommendation: No. Florida’s infrastructure and social programs are drastically underfunded and the measure benefits a small minority of the public. Other local taxes (such as sales tax and special district assessments) will need to be increased to make up any shortfalls. An increase in the sales tax could hurt tourism in the long run. Any chance to cut taxes and unnecessary expenditures is a good one, but this measure doesn’t live up to its promise.
Amendment 2 - Limitations of Property Tax Assessments:
What does it do? Makes permanent existing caps on property tax assessment increases on nonhomestead property and increases the existing homestead exemption by $25,000. It was on the 2008 ballot and approved, but not permanently.
Recommendation: Yes. This provision makes permanent an existing cap already approved by Florida voters. However, the provision benefits primarily secondary homes (ones not lived in by their owner and not subject to the homestead exemption) and businesses and leave local governments unable to tax the actual market value of property. The counter argument is that Florida homeowners should be insulated from large swings in market value such as with the recent housing boom/bust. Florida Tax Watch, small businesses and the Florida Association of Realtors support the amendment.
Amendment 3 - Voter Control of Gambling in Florida:
What does it do? Would require the amendment process to approve new casinos. Currently casinos are restricted to tribal lands (with some exceptions).
Recommendation: No. The measure is masked as protecting the public from the ills of increased gambling, but it only furthers the anticompetitive interests of existing corporate entities. Most of the organized support is from Disney and existing casinos, which would benefit directly from less competition for tourism dollars. You should also vote no if you think local voters should maintain control over their communities, as the state-wide amendment process would become the only way to approve new casinos.
Amendment 4: Voting Restoration Amendment:
What does it do? Restores voting rights for felons.
Recommendation: Yes. Florida is one of four states that strips convicted felons of the right to vote. These laws can be traced to post-Civil War era laws designed to deny freed slaves of their new rights as citizens. The current restoration process requires felons to beg the political favor of the governor. The process is arbitrary and capricious, leaving the governor unlimited discretion in approving or denying a petition for restoration.
Amendment 5 - Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees:
What does it do? Replaces the simple majority (51%) required of the Legislature to raise taxes with a super majority (two-thirds vote). Does not affect local tax raises or other tax districts. It also bars adding tax and fee increases onto other legislative bills (known as bundling).
Recommendation: Yes. This change makes it harder for the State Legislature to raises taxes. You should support this if you think we need more checks on out of control spending by the State Government.
Amendment 6 - Rights of Crime Victims; Judges:
What does it do? Amendment 6 is a bundled amendment. There have been a few challenges to it (and other proposed amendments) as it violates the “one topic” rule required of proposed amendments. It contains three provisions:
The first is the "victim's right" provision, modeled after California's Marsy's Law.
The second raises the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 for judges; and
The third prevents State trial courts from being bound by administrative decisions of administrative bodies.
Provision 2 is self-explanatory, but the bundling issue overrides any merit or drawbacks.
Provision 3 is a bad idea, as it upends a tremendous amount of existing case law regarding administrative law that voters should not lightly tamper with.
Provision 1 is the true offender. "Victim's rights" is one of those nebulous political phrases that lacks any real meaning. Who could be opposed to "victim's rights?" It’s like being opposed to "freedom" or "democracy." However, the provision creates sweeping substantive and procedural changes to Florida criminal law, some of which are unlikely to survive a challenge under the U.S. Constitution. These "victim's rights" drives are made by concerted lobbying efforts masquerading as grass roots campaigns. These PACS are simply obsessed with retributive justice.
Some particular onerous provisions are worth discussing in detail:
"(1) The right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity."
Due process rights exist to protect the accused from the tremendous power of the government. Our legal system was inherited from the English common law system. The concept of due process originated as a protection from the abuses of the English Crown during the War of the Roses and the through the infamous Star Chamber used to silence political dissidents. This provision is likely unconstitutional under the 5th, 8th and 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"(2) The right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse. (3) The right, within the judicial process, to be reasonably protected from the accused and any person acting on behalf of the accused. However, nothing contained herein is intended to create a special relationship between the crime victim and any law enforcement agency or office absent a special relationship or duty as defined by Florida law."
We already have witness tampering and witness protection laws on the books.
"(4) The right to have the safety and welfare of the victim and the victim’s family considered when setting bail, including setting pretrial release conditions that protect the safety and welfare of the victim and the victim’s family."
This punishes the accused before being found guilty of a crime. This provision is likely unconstitutional under the 5th, 8th and 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"(6) A victim shall have the following specific rights upon request:
a. The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of, and to be present at, all public proceedings involving the criminal conduct, including, but not limited to, trial, plea, sentencing, or adjudication, even if the victim will be a witness at the proceeding, notwithstanding any rule to the contrary. A victim shall also be provided reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any release or escape of the defendant or delinquent, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated."
This causes serious procedural issues with preventing the victim from hearing the testimony of other witnesses, which is necessary to prevent undue tampering or influence on witness testimony. Witness testimony is already seen as extremely unreliable in the justice system. This removes one of the last justifications for allowing it.
"b. The right to be heard in any public proceeding involving pretrial or other release from any form of legal constraint, plea, sentencing, adjudication, or parole, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated."
Pretrial procedures exist partly to protect against the danger of a Judge becoming biased toward the defendant. This weakens those protections.
[Provisions 6(c)(d), 8 and 9 already exist in practice, and create nothing novel.]
The proposed "victim's right" provision accomplishes little in the way of new protections for victims while drastically undermining the rights of the accused to a fair trial. Corporate “victims” would gain participatory rights in the criminal process. The Amendment is opposed by the ACLU of Florida, the League of Women’s voters of Florida, The Florida Public Defender Association, various Republican Lawmakers, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida and the Libertarian Party of Florida.
Amendment 7 - First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities
What does it do? Amendment 7 is a bundled amendment. It contains two unrelated provisions:
Ensures benefits for first responders;
Changes voting policies for community college board of trustees.
Recommendation: No, assuming it isn’t stricken by the Florida Supreme Court for bundling. The increased benefits to first responders are unquantified and bundling is a political practice that should be resisted. No one wants to appear against first responders, but the provisions have nothing to do with one another.
Amendment 8 – Stricken
Amendment 9 - Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
What does it do? Amendment 9 is a bundled amendment. It contains two unrelated provisions:
Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling;
Bans vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces
Recommendation: No, assuming it isn’t stricken by the Florida Supreme Court for bundling. Existing State law bans oil drilling within a mile offshore of any submerged land within a bay, estuary, river, or state park and already protect against unsafe drilling practices. Further, the provisions have nothing to do with each other. The vaping law is so broad it would prohibit companies with one employee from indoor vaping.
Amendment 10 – State and Local Government Structure and Operation
What does it do? Amendment 10 is yet another bundled amendment. It contains four provisions:
Requires all countries to elect certain offices currently made by appointment;
Sets the dates the Legislature meets;
Creates a new office on terrorism;
Creates a permanent office on veteran’s affairs.
Recommendation: No, assuming it isn’t stricken by the Florida Supreme Court for bundling. This amendment is a mess. Voters currently choose on a county basis whether positions like the Sheriff, clerk of court, property appraiser or others are elected or appointed. That provision strips local decision making from citizens. The new office provisions are unnecessary bureaucratic growth. The scheduling provision is also unnecessary.
Amendment 11 - Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes
What does it do? Amendment 11 is another bundled amendment. It contains three provisions:
Removes language regarding the repealed High-Speed Rail Amendment;
Deletes the Florida Constitution “Savings Clause” that prevents the Legislature for reducing a criminal sentence if it later changes the penalties or abolishes a particular crime (the amendment would not require a reduction, it only permits it);
Repeals the Florida Alien Land Law.
Recommendation: Yes, bundling issues aside, and assuming it isn’t stricken by the Florida Supreme Court for bundling. Provision 1 is a housekeeping proposal, removing unneeded language from the Constitution. Provision 2 allows everyone convicted of a crime to be treated equally if the penalty changes. This change is a needed step to restore the rights of many as the U.S. and individual states move toward legalizing marijuana and ending the failed war on drugs. Provision 3 references removing a century old law designed to deny property rights to lawful resident Asians. While the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled such laws are unconstitutional, Florida's remains on the books.
Amendment 12 - Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers
What does it do? Bans elected officials from taking almost any lobbying positions for six years after they leave office.
Recommendation: Yes. Any proposal that upsets lobbying interests is a good one. While this would be better served by a change in lobbying laws, there is little chance the Legislature would ever approve this measure on its own accord
Amendment 13 - Ends Dog Racing
What does it do? Prohibits wagering on dog racing in the State of Florida. The text of the amendment does not actually ban racing, just wagering on the outcome. (In practice there is little difference). Current laws require certain gambling facilities to race dogs to maintain their gambling licenses. The amendment would also abolish that requirement.
Recommendation: None. If you believe that greyhound racing is inhumane, you should vote yes. If you believe the proposed amendment interferes in private rights or that the text of the amendment is too vague to accomplish its actual objective (banning racing as opposed to just wagering), you should vote no.