Understanding your constitutional amendments

by Don Coble
Posted 10/7/20

CLAY COUNTY – There are seven state and local amendments on the General Election ballot on Nov. 3 and trying to pour through the legal talk often can be as difficult as reading Swedish …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Understanding your constitutional amendments

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – There are seven state and local amendments on the General Election ballot on Nov. 3 and trying to pour through the legal talk often can be as difficult as reading Swedish instructions for building a home entertainment center.

While this doesn’t pick sides in any of the decisions, it’s essential to understand, in layman’s terms, what we are asked to decide. Some of the amendments are easy to understand. Others aren’t. So here’s a simple explanation of each amendment.

Amendment 1: Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections

What the amendment says:

This amendment provides that only United States Citizens who are at least eighteen years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election. Because the proposed amendment is not expected to result in any changes to the voter registration process in Florida, it will have no impact on state or local government costs or revenue. Further, it will have no effect on the state’s economy.

What it means:

A YES vote means foreigners who lack documentation and out of state visitors can’t vote in Florida. It narrows the definition of an eligible voter to “only” a legal resident who’s registered to vote.

A NO vote would expand the definition of a legal voter to “every” citizen who is a permanent resident in the state, regardless of documented status.

Amendment 2: Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage

What the amendment says:

Raises minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.

State and local government costs will increase to comply with the new minimum wage levels. Additional annual wage costs will be approximately $16 million in 2022, increasing to about $540 million in 2027 and thereafter. Government actions to mitigate these costs are unlikely to produce material savings. Other government costs and revenue impacts, both positive and negative, are not quantifiable.

THIS PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IS ESTIMATED TO HAVE A NET NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE STATE BUDGET. THIS IMPACT MAY RESULT IN HIGHER TAXES OR A LOSS OF GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN A BALANCED STATE BUDGET AS REQUIRED BY THE CONSTITUTION.

What it means:

A YES vote would require annual increases in minimum wage until it reaches $15 an hour, with yearly adjustments for inflation starting in 2027.

A NO vote would keep Florida’s rate at $8.56 an hour and make possible increases a function of the state legislature and governor.

Amendment 3: All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet

What the amendment says:

Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.

It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference projects that the combined costs across counties will range from $5.2 million to $5.8 million for each of the first three election cycles occurring in

even-numbered years after the amendment’s effective date, with the costs for each of the intervening years dropping to less than $450,000. With respect to state costs for oversight, the additional costs for administering elections are expected to be minimal. Further, there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida. Since there is no impact on state costs or revenues, there will be no impact on the state’s budget. While the proposed amendment will result in an increase in local expenditures, this change is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact.

What it means:

A YES vote means all candidates for the Florida House of Representatives, Florida Senate, Governor and the Cabinet, regardless of political affiliations, are lumped into a single primary with the top-two advancing to the General Election. It creates the possibility of two candidates from the same political party running against each other.

A NO vote would keep the same closed system, which prohibits Democrats from voting for a Republican candidate in the primary and Republicans voting for Democrats in state-level races. The only exception is if there are no qualified candidates from one party, then all parties are allowed to cast votes.

Amendment 4: Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments

What the amendment says:

Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.

It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional state and local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. Overall, these costs will vary from election cycle to election cycle depending on the unique circumstances of each ballot and cannot be estimated at this time. The key factors determining cost include the number of amendments appearing for the second time on each ballot and the length of those amendments. Since the maximum state cost is likely less than $1 million per cycle but the impact cannot be discretely quantified, the change to the state’s budget is unknown. Similarly, the economic impact cannot be modelled, although the spending increase is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact. Because there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida, there will be no impact on government taxes or fees.

THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF THIS AMENDMENT CANNOT BE DETERMINED DUE TO AMBIGUITIES AND UNCERTAINTIES SURROUNDING THE AMENDMENT’S IMPACT.

What it means:

A YES vote means any changes or revisions to the constitution would require approval in two election cycles. Proponents feel the process needs an extra layer, even if it means changes now will take at least two years.

A NO vote means an amendment or revision to the constitution only needs to be approved in one election. Proponents feel two cycles would disenfranchise many grassroot campaigns to effect change.

Amendment 5: Limitations on Homestead Property Tax Assessments; increased portability period to transfer accrued benefit

What the amendment says:

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective January 1, 2021, to increase, from 2 years to 3 years, the period of time during which accrued

Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.

What it means:

A YES vote means you agree to expand the deadline to transfer their “Save-Our-Homes” homestead exemptions from two years to three.

A NO vote means you believe the current two-year deadline to transfer a “Save-Our-Homes” homestead exemption is fine.

Amendment 6: Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities

What the amendment says:

Provides that the homestead property tax discount for certain veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities carries over to such veteran's surviving spouse who holds legal or beneficial title to, and who permanently resides on, the homestead property, until he or she remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property. The discount may be transferred to a new homestead property of the surviving spouse under certain conditions. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2021.

What it means:

A YES vote means you support a homestead property tax discount to spouses of disabled or deceased veterans.

A NO vote means you don’t believe a spouse of disabled or deceased veteran deserves a discount in the homestead property tax.

Amendment 7: Levy one-half cent sales surtax for district school and charter school authorized uses

What the amendment says:

Shall a one-half cent sales surtax be levied in Clay County by the School Board for thirty years, beginning January 1, 2021, to finance district school construction, reconstruction, renovation, and remodeling of facilities, safety, security, technology upgrades, land acquisition and improvement and allowable statutory uses for charter schools. A citizens advisory committee will monitor expenditures. Revenues collected must be shared with eligible charter schools based on their proportionate share of total school district enrollment.

FOR the 1/2% (0.5) cent sales tax

AGAINST the 1/2% (0.5) cent sales tax

What it means:

A YES vote would allow a half-cent sales tax increase to help finance more than $300 million in maintenance projects, as well as building new schools.

A NO vote means you don’t support a half-cent sales tax to repair and build new schools.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment