Amendments on the 2018 Florida ballot: What to know before you vote

Politics
Florida Primary_1540752217554

Voters cast their ballots at the Miami-Dade County Palm Springs North Fire Station, during the Florida primary election, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

There are 12 constitutional amendments up for vote in Florida this year. 

The language on the ballot can get confusing and several of the amendments have different issues bundled together. So 8 On Your Side put together this guide for what you need to know about each amendment.

AMENDMENT 1: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption
What it says: 
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies. The amendment shall take effect January 1, 2019.

What a YES vote means:
Starting Jan. 1, 2019, homes valued between $100,000 and $125,000 would get an additional $25,000 homestead exemption, excluding local school taxes.

What a NO vote means:
Voting no on Amendment 1 means the current homestead tax exemptions totaling $50,000 would be retained. It would have no effect on the amount of tax revenue collected by city and county governments.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
The Florida Association of Counties says it would cost Florida’s cities, counties and other taxing authorities an estimated $687.5 million a year starting in 2019. They say that would likely mean cuts to services or higher local rates (or both) to make up for the revenue losses. They also say most benefits will only go to a handful of homeowners, not all of them.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
According to The Orlando Sentinel, House Speaker Richard Corcoran believes local governments can cut some spending from budgets to make up the difference for it, saying that homeowners deserve the increase.

AMENDMENT 2: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments
What it says:
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on specified nonhomestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect January 1, 2019.

What a YES vote means:
A temporary cap of 10 percent on annual property value increases for vacations homes, apartments and commercial property would become permanent.

What a NO vote means:
The temporary cap of 10 percent on annual property value increases for vacations homes, apartments and commercial property would expire on Jan. 1, 2019.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
The League of Women Voters of Florida says the amendment would continue to deny local governments tax revenue that they would collect from rising property values.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
The Florida Family Policy Council says the amendment would protect Floridians from a major tax increase. Florida Tax Watch calls the nonhomestead cap a “relatively limited, but important, safeguard for renters, businesses, owners of vacant lands, snowbirds and other second homeowners.”

AMENDMENT 3: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
What it says:
This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/ tribal compacts.

The amendment’s impact on state and local government revenues and costs, if any, cannot be determined at this time because of its unknown effect on gambling operations that have not been approved by voters through a constitutional amendment proposed by a citizens’ initiative petition process.

What a YES vote means:
Amendment 3 would give voters the exclusive right to decide whether or not any new casino gambling should be authorized in Florida. Voters would decide through citizen-initiated ballot measures, stripping the right from the legislature. The legislature would still approve non-casino gambling like poker rooms, bingo, lotteries and fantasy sports.

What a NO vote means:
A no vote means the legislature would still have the right to allow casino gambling by passing new laws or through other types of constitutional amendments.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
The American Legion of Florida claims the amendment is “not in the interest of Florida, but in the interest of the Seminoles and Disney.” They and other opponents say it will create a “monopoly” for the Seminole Tribe. 

ARGUMENTS FOR:
The Florida Family Policy Council says it would freeze casino gambling at current levels and take away the legislature’s ability to expand casino gambling. Voters in Charge says Amendment 3 “takes power from gambling lobbyists and gives it to Florida voters.” They also say it will help reduce casino corruption.

AMENDMENT 4: Voting Restoration Amendment
What it says:
This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis. 

The precise effect of this amendment on state and local government costs cannot be determined, but the operation of current voter registration laws, combined with an increased number of felons registering to vote, will produce higher overall costs relative to the processes in place today. The impact, if any, on state and local government revenues cannot be determined. The fiscal impact of any future legislation that implements a different process cannot be reasonably determined.

What a YES vote means:
A yes vote means felons would have the right to vote again after completing all of the terms of their sentence. This would not apply to felons who have been convicted of murder or felony sex crimes.

What a NO vote means:
A no vote means felons would still have to wait a minimum of five years before applying to have their voting rights restored. They would have to appear before the governor and cabinet to appeal for the rights. The governor and cabinet would have the exclusive authority to determine whether a felon could vote again.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
Floridians for a Sensible Voting Rights Policy argues that the amendment treats many violent crimes (other than murder and felony sex crimes) no different than non-violent crimes. They also say there’s no distinction in the amendment between one-time offenders and career criminals.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
According to the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida is one of just four states that bars felons from voting after their sentences are over. They and other supporters of the amendment argue that everyone deserves a second chance.

AMENDMENT 5: Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees
What it says:
Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district.

What a YES vote means:
A yes vote supports making it a requirement that two-thirds of each chamber of the Florida legislature would have to vote to enact new taxes or fees, or increase existing ones.

What a NO vote means:
A no vote means the state legislature would continue to enact new taxes or fees, or increase existing ones, through a simple majority vote.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
The League of Women Voters of Florida argues that the amendment doesn’t include a provision that would allow tax increases in times of emergencies like hurricanes, floods and recessions. Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum accused Republican lawmakers of preparing for when they’re out of power and “stacking the deck” now, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
Back when the bill passed the Florida House in January, Speaker Richard Corcoran told the Orlando Sentinel we should make it more difficult to raise taxes than it is to cut them and said the amendment will “secure and protect” that legacy. Supporting politicians says it’s important to make it more difficult to increase taxes for Florida residents.

AMENDMENT 6: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges
What it says:
Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.

What a YES vote means:
Voting yes supports Marsy’s Law. It would enshrine a variety of victims’ rights into the state constitution, place new time limits on filing appeals and require that victims get some sort of written notification of their rights. It would also eliminate a current constitutional provision that ensures victims’ rights don’t infringe on the rights of accused criminals.

The amendment would also increase the mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75 years and ban state courts from deferring to an administrative agency’s interpretation of a state statute or rule when deciding on cases.

What a NO vote means:
A no vote means Marsy’s Law would not be added to the Florida constitution.

The mandatory retirement age for justices and judges would stay at 70. Courts and judges would be allowed to continue relying on the interpretation of state laws and rules from state agencies when deciding on cases.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
Opponents argue that victims’ rights are already protected in the constitution. The League of Women Voters of Florida claims the amendment would eliminate an existing provision that ensures victims’ rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
Law enforcement officials who support the amendment say accused criminals have state and federal laws that protect them and ensure due process, so crime victims should also have rights to protect them.

AMENDMENT 7: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities
What it says:
Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.

What a YES vote means:
The amendment would require death benefits be paid to surviving spouses of first responders and expand the definition of first responders to include paramedics and EMTs. It would require the state to provide death benefits to the surviving spouses of active-duty Armed Forces members who are accidentally, unlawfully or intentionally killed. That would include members of the military who are residents of Florida or are stationed in the state.

It would also force a university’s board of trustees and the state Board of Governors to get a supermajority approval in order to increase student fees or impose new ones. The amendment would make the governing framework for state colleges a part of the constitution.

What a NO vote means:
If the amendment does not pass, paramedics and EMTs would stay excluded from the definition of first responders. Death benefits for first responders would continue being provided through state law but it would not be part of the constitution. Death benefits would still be provided to the families of National Guardsmen killed in the line of duty but not to families of US service members who live in Florida. 

Universities would be allowed to increase student fees or impose new ones with just a simple majority of votes. The governing framework for state colleges would stay in state law but be excluded from the constitution.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
Opponents argue that family members of the military who die in the line of duty are already compensated enough through the federal government.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
The Florida League of Cities says this would make it more difficult to increase college fees and place the current structure of the state’s system of higher education in the constitution. 

Note: Amendment 8 was removed from the 2018 ballot by the Supreme Court. Floridians will not vote on Amendment 8.

AMENDMENT 9: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
What it says:
Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor-generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.

What a YES vote means:
The amendment would ban offshore drilling for oil and natural gas on lands beneath Florida state waters.

It would also ban the use of vapor-generating electronic devices, like E-cigs, in indoor workspaces.

What a NO vote means:
A no vote means there would be no state constitutional ban on drilling beneath state waters. The existing state laws that ban drilling would not be impacted.

Restrictions on vaping and the use of vaping devices would not be included in the constitution.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
The Florida Chamber of Commerce says the issues can be addressed through legislative process and don’t need to be permanently included in the constitution.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
Supporters say their concern for the environment overpowers their concern about vaping. They worry that if the amendment doesn’t pass it will be a sign to the federal government that Florida doesn’t care about offshore drilling.

AMENDMENT 10: State and Local Government Structure and Operation
What it says:
Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even-numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.

What a YES vote means:
The amendment would require the legislature to provide for a state Department of Veterans Affairs and create a state Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism.

It would require the legislature to convene regular session on the second Tuesday of January of even-numbered years.

Florida counties would be prohibited from abolishing certain local offices like sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, supervisor of elections and clerks of the court. Elections would be required for those offices.

What a NO vote means:
The legislature would be allowed to set a start date for lawmaking sessions in even-numbered years.

A state Department of Veterans Affairs would not be mandated in the constitution, meaning the legislature can determine whether or not Florida should have the department. An Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism would not be mandated in the constitution.

Florida’s charter counties would be allowed to continue to determine the duties of the sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, supervisor of elections and clerks of the court. They can also decide whether those offices should be elected posts.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
Opponents claim the amendment is an effort to restrict the powers of local government.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
Supporters say this amendment protects Floridians’ right to vote by mandating the five constitutionally-appointed offices are independent and voted on by the people in their county. 

AMENDMENT 11: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes
What it says:
Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.

What a YES vote means:
If passed, Amendment 11 would repeal a provision that allows the legislature to restrict non-citizens from owning, inheriting and possessing property. 

It also deletes a constitutional provision saying a high-speed ground transportation system be developed in the State of Florida. Voters repealed the section in 2004 but the language was never removed.

It would delete a constitutional provision that requires criminal suspects be prosecuted under provision of laws they’re accused of breaking, even if the law is changed.

What a NO vote means:
A no vote means legislature would still be allowed to pass laws restricting property rights of non-citizens.

A section on high-speed transportation in Florida would stay in the constitution even though voters repealed it.

Criminal suspects would still be mandated to be prosecuted under the law they’re accused of breaking, even if the law changes.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida argues that the section on the criminal statue provision is “unclear and disputed.” They say the other provisions included in the amendment are already either unenforceable or expired.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
According to WLRN, The ACLU of Florida supports the amendment for several reasons, including the criminal prosecution provision. They gave WLRN the example that if marijuana were legalized in the state of Florida, what would happen to the people in jail on marijuana charges? The ACLU says this amendment would “allow that statue to apply retroactively” to those affected. 

A policy analyst told the Tallahassee Democrat that the possibility of inmate sentences being reduced means the state would cut down on expenses. The analyst says that would have “major fiscal benefits” for taxpayers.

AMENDMENT 12: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers
What it says:
Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.

What a YES vote means:
A yes vote supports extending the ban on state lobbying by lawmakers and elected officials from two years to six years. It would prohibit officials from lobbying for compensation during their term in office and for six years after they leave office. Voting yes also supports prohibiting elected officials and public employees from using pension to gain a “disproportionate benefit.”

What a NO vote means:
A no vote supports keeping current restrictions in place when it comes to elected officials and lobbying.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida claims the amendment is applied “too broadly at local level” and won’t solve the problem of money and influence in politics.

ARGUMENTS FOR:
According to the Florida League of Cities, supporters believe this will “weed out” people who get into public service to benefit themselves. It will help make sure people go into public service for the right reasons.

AMENDMENT 13: Ends Dog Racing
What it says:
Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.

What a YES vote means:
Voting yes supports banning all dog racing, including greyhound racing, in Florida by Dec. 31, 2020. Tracks would still be allowed to continue operating card rooms and slot machines.

What a NO vote means:
If the amendment fails, wagering on dog racing in Florida will still be allowed.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:
Opponents say this will result in a loss of about $1 million in taxes and fees. They call Florida greyhound racing a “proud tradition.”

ARGUMENTS FOR:
Amendment 13 has a wide range of bipartisan support. Those who hope to see the amendment pass say commercial greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane. 

*We should note that Amendment 8 was removed from the ballot, therefore it is not included in this list. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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