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Florida's proposed amendments: Here's a breakdown ahead of the midterms

Florida’s proposed amendments: Here’s a breakdown ahead of the midterms. (Source: MGN/Cropped Photo: Whoisjohngalt / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0)

As Florida voters prepare to cast their ballots, you will see 12 proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution.

Some voters say sometimes the amendments are to hard to interpret and shouldn't be included on the ballot.

Therefore to make things a little less complicated, Channel 3's Christina Leavenworth has prepared a breakdown to Florida's 2018 Amendments listed on the General Election ballot.

Amendment 1 deals with homestead property tax exemptions. If you vote yes, it would provide another $25,000 in homestead tax exemption for properties assessed at $100,000 or more. School taxes would be exempt.

Officials estimate typical property owners would see their tax bills drop by about $250-300 per year. those that support it say the tax cut would put money in the pockets of residents and improve the economy. They also say property values are expected to rise, so local governments should be able to make up shortfalls through that. However, local governments are concerned that if this goes through, it would take too much money and hurt services like police and fire protection. According to the Florida Association of Counties statewide the exemption would cost counties and cities about $750 million. Local political leaders could make up the difference by raising the tax rate.

Amendment 2 - just like Amendment 1, Amendment 2 deals with property taxes. It would permanently adopt an already-existing cap that limits property tax assessment increases to 10 percent annually for non-homestead property.

Non-homestead means property someone owns that they don't live in full time, like commercial or rental properties. This would prevent repeal of the cap that is scheduled to expire in 2019.

Florida Taxwatch is all for it. They feel adopting this amendment is crucial to prevent a huge tax increase in the future. However local governments could benefit from more tax revenues if the 10 percent limit goes away. However, the Florida Association of Counties voted to remain neutral on the amendment.

Amendment 3 deals with casinos. This amendment gives voters the exclusive right to decide whether a new casino can open in the state. It takes that right away from the Florida legislature. This would essentially ban new casinos unless Florida voters get it on a ballot and voters across the state approve it . Opponents say on the surface, Amendment 3 empowers voters. But because the referendum would be statewide, voters in one part of the state would decide whether a gaming facility can open somewhere else. This would benefit larger companies that have the resources to gather hundreds of thousands signature needed for a referendum. Supporters in general oppose expanded gambling. The amendment is being bankrolled by the state's largest casino company, the Seminole Tribe, which already operates casinos in the state and Disney World. It's also backed Orlando-based No Casinos and the League of Women Voters.

Amendment 4 would restore the voting rights to people convicted of felonies, except for murderers or felony sex offenders. The rights would only be restored after they finish their sentences, any probation, and repaid any restitution.

Supporters argue Florida is one of just four states that doesn't automatically restore the civil rights of non-violent, ex-felons. The current law requires felons to wait five to seven years before seeking restoration of voting rights, which advocates say is unfair. They point out that about 1.6 million Florida felons are ineligible to vote. However Governor Rick Scott and others argue the state must carefully consider the cases of felons before restoring their rights.

Amendment 5 would require a super majority of the legislature to impose new taxes or fees or to increase existing ones. Currently, most taxes and fees can be raised through a simple majority. This amendment would require two-thirds vote of each chamber. The amendment was placed on the ballot by Republican lawmakers and Governor Rick Scott. They say it should be more difficult to raise taxes than it is to cut them.

Those against feel the amendment contains no exception for times of disaster or other emergencies. They feel it will make it too difficult for lawmakers to raise taxes to fund education and other government services. Opponents include the League of Women Voters of Florida, Progress Florida and the Florida Education Association.

Amendment 6 links three proposals that would create a bill of rights for crime victims and set new requirements for judges. The victim's bill of rights has the support of major Republican and Democratic lawmakers but has drawn criticism that the way the rights are drawn might flood the justice system with additional responsibilities.

The other two proposals increase the mandatory retirement age for judges to 75 from 70 and would prohibit judges from deferring to administrative agencies' interpretations of a rule or statute when ruling in cases involving those laws. ???

Amendment 7 will make it more difficult to raise any college fee, other than tuition. It will require a university board of trustees to get 9 out of 13 votes. For a fee to be raised system-wide, the state university system's board of governors would need 12 out of 17 members to approve. Another proposal is wrapped in this amendment. It will protect surviving spouses of military members and first responders killed in the line of duty. Spouses would receive a payment of death benefits from the State and would have some educational costs at public institutions waived. This was one of the amendments that had been challenged in the supreme court. Those for it feel the costs of college could be kept down by requiring a higher threshold to increase fees. Those against it feel it will make it harder to increase fees and could potentially limit a University's ability to pay for services.

Amendment 9 bundles two issues together. It would ban offshore drilling in Florida territorial waters and it would add vaping to the state's ban on smoking in indoor workplaces. This was one of the amendments that had been challenged in the Supreme Court. Critics say vaping shouldn't be tied to oil drilling. For environmentalists, a constitutionally mandated ban on offshore drilling would be a big win.

Those against it feels there's the potential loss of state revenue that would come with selling offshore drilling rights.

There's already many restrictions for those that vape inside, this would expand it.

Amendment 10 would link four proposals. It would have the state's legislative session start in January rather than March in even-numbered years. It requires that the existence of a Department of Veteran's Affairs be constitutionally mandated. It would also create a new department within the FDLE, called the "Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism." The biggest part getting attention would require top county officers to be elected, rather than appointed. Specifically the Sheriff, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser , Supervisor of Elections, and Clerk of Court. While that's already the case here, in some florida counties, those positions can be appointed.

Supporters feel having elected positions would mean more accountability. However some County governments, including some in Central Florida, are opposed to state-mandated restrictions on their charters.

Amendment 11 would simply delete wording regarding a high-speed rail amendment that has since been repealed and delete wording that bans property ownership for "aliens ineligible for citizenship." This is no longer an issue, but goes back to century-old, now-overturned laws. It's Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to help make the Florida Constitution more precise and brief with the removal of outdated and unconstitutional provisions. Critics point out that the Constitutional Revision Commission has bundled a few different issues into one amendment. plus, many civic reformers believe such measures should be resolved by the governor and legislature; they don't belong in a state constitution.

Con: A group of former republican officials, including former Lt. Govs. Jeff Kottkamp and Jennifer Carroll, formed a group called save our constitution, which opposes all measures on the ballot because the constitution revision commission bundled provisions in different subject matters.

Amendment 12 would prohibit a public official whether elected or an employee from getting paid for lobbying while serving in office and for six years afterward. Currently, there is a two-year prohibition after leaving the government payroll.

Those that support it feel it would make politics more ethical, lawmakers-turned-lobbyists would be unable to lobby most former colleagues.

Those against it feel -it's uncertain how much teeth this would have, given that the amendment leaves it up to the legislature to determine what penalties lawmakers would face.

Amendment 13 would ban greyhound racing by 2021, however- Florida's 11 dog tracks would still be able to operate as card rooms and, in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, larger-scale casinos that offer slot machines.

For animal rights advocates, the end of dog racing in Florida would be a huge win. Florida has more dog tracks than the rest of the country combined.

However greyhound trainers, breeders and others involved in the business say the end of live dog racing in Florida would mean significant job losses. Prohibiting dog racing will result in a loss of roughly $1 million in state revenues.

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