With the spotlight glaring on President Donald Trump and his challenger, Joe Biden, it could be easy to overlook the proposed constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot in November. That would be a mistake. They have far-reaching consequences.
The only state constitutional amendment not discussed here is Amendment 2 regarding minimum wage. It requires a more thorough discussion. See next week’s Keys Weekly for more.
Citizenship requirement to vote in Florida elections
The two key phrases are “every citizen” and “only a citizen.” Right now, the constitution guarantees the right to vote to “every citizen of the United States.” Florida Citizens Voters wants to change that to “only a citizen.” It doesn’t really matter, though, because noncitizens are already barred from voting under Florida law. A few communities — for example, San Francisco, California — allow noncitizens to vote in local races such as school board elections.
All voters vote in primary elections for state legislature, governor and cabinet
This amendment was sponsored by South Florida businessman Mike Fernandez. If it passes, every voter gets to put a check next to his or her favorite candidate, regardless of party affiliation, and the top two vote getters face off in the general election. The amendment would apply only to state officials — legislature, governor and cabinet positions such as attorney general. Currently, Florida has a closed primary system. For example, only Democrats can vote for Democratic candidates in party races and in the general election voters can vote for either party candidate. Critics of this proposed constitutional amendment say it would effectively make primary elections moot because party candidates run against one another in the August elections.
Voter approval of constitutional amendments
According to the Sun Sentinel, this movement is being funded by lobbying organizations linked to Florida Power and Light, U.S. Sugar Corp. and other big businesses. If passed, future constitutional amendments or revisions would need to be approved by 60% or more of voters. It would also require the amendment to appear on two ballots (different election years), to pass, instead of one. Supporters of this amendment believe there are too many constitutional amendments on the ballot and that new laws should be passed by the state legislature. Critics say it is the only way to get new laws passed. Most recently, constitutional amendments were used to approve medical marijuana in Florida and restore felons’ voting rights.
Limitation on homestead assessments
This amendment was proposed by the state legislature. The homestead assessment — also known as the Save Our Homes benefit — would give homeowners three years to transfer tax breaks to a new property. Currently, the law only gives homeowners two years to transfer the tax credit. The downside of this amendment is that it could reduce revenue for local governments. According to the Sun-Sentinel it could be as much as $1.8 million less beginning next fiscal year.
Ad valorem discount for spouses of certain deceased who had permanent, combat-related disabilities.
If passed: When a veteran with combat-related disabilities dies, the homestead property tax discounts would carry over to the spouse until he or she remarries or sells the property. If the spouse sells the home, the same discount could carry over to the next property. Again, the downside of this amendment is the cost to local governments.