13 constitutional amendments on Florida ballot in November

By Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

Floridians have bypassed their elected lawmakers more than dozens of times in the past half-century  last decade, using a vote of the people to legalize medical marijuana, limited state lawmakers to eight years in office, set limits on the property tax increases, make English the official language of Florida, required turtle escapes from commercial fishing nets, and, most famously, put rules on the treatment of pregnant pigs.

Voters in November will face 13 most constitutional amendments, the most since 1998, which is the last time the state's Constitution Revision Commission met. The majority of the amendments on this year's ballot came from that months-long process.

Some measures proposed by the CRC have been grouped together, meaning voters will have to choose to approve or reject disparate proposals that were bundled into one amendment. Floridians will be asked have to decide if they want to ban both vaping indoors and offshore oil and gas drilling, and if they want to require Miami-Dade to elect its sheriff and create a state counter-terrorism office.

“Voter fatigue” is a concern of backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would extend a property-tax cap, particularly because approval of the measure -- like all others -- requires support from 60 percent of voters.

Here's the complete list:

Amendment 1, Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption - This would raise the portion of a home's value that can be exempted from non-school property taxes. The Legislature voted to refer the exemption to the ballot in 2017, and the proposed changes would apply to the assessed value of a homestead property between $100,000 and $125,000, raising the maximum exemption to $75,000.

Amendment 2, Limitations on Property Tax Assessments - Another proposal referred by the Legislature would cement an existing cap on non-homestead property assessments. Such property tax assessment increases have been limited to 10 percent of the previous year's assessed value since 2008, when another constitutional amendment that capped the increases passed.

Amendment 3, Voter Control of Gambling in Florida - This citizen-initiated amendment would mandate that only voters can decide to authorize expansions of casino gambling in Florida. That authority currently rests with both the Legislature and voters.

Amendment 4, Voting Restoration Amendment - This amendment put on the ballot through a citizens' petition would restore voting rights to former felons if they have served their time, with the exception of those who have committed crimes like murder or sex offenses.

Amendment 5, Super-majority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees -  Lawmakers added this proposal to require a two-thirds super-majority vote in the Legislature to impose, approve or raise state taxes and fees -- meaning if more than a third of the Legislature opposed a statewide tax, it would die. 

The rest of the amendments came from the CDC and comprise about 20 proposals grouped into eight amendments:

Amendment 6, Rights of Crime Victims; Judges - This links three proposals that create a bill of rights for crime victims and set new requirements for judges. There is the bill of rights, modeled after Marsy's Law in California, a hike in the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75, and a rule barring judges from deferring to administrative agencies' interpretations of a rule or statute when ruling in cases involving those laws.

Amendment 7, First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities - Three more proposals in one: providing college tuition for the survivors of first responders and military members killed on duty, requiring university trustees to agree by a two-thirds super-majority to raise college fees (not including tuition) and establishing the state college system in the Florida Constitution.

Amendment 8, School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools - This bundle contains three education-related proposals: eight-year school board term limits, as expanded civics education in public schools and controversial plan to enable charter schools to bypass local school boards by expanding the state's authority to control and supervise them.

Amendment 9, Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces - This would ban on oil and gas drilling in state-owned waters and ban smoking electronic cigarettes indoors.

Amendment 10, State and Local Government Structure and Operation - This one links four proposals: moving the start of the state's legislative session to January rather than March in even-numbered years (to allow lawmakers to start campaigning earlier, which the legislature currently does by statute), create a counter-terrorism office, make the state veterans affairs department a constitutional requirement, and a proposal that would require five county-level offices to be elected. Most counties already election their sheriffs, tax collectors, property appraisers, supervisors of elections and clerks of circuit court. Those officers are already elected in most counties, but the sheriff is not in Miami-Dade.

Amendment 11, Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes - This measure would remove some language from the constitution, including a provision that stops "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning property and wording approving a high-speed rail system. It would also remove the state's Savings Clause, which prohibits retroactively applying the amendment of a criminal statute to sentencing for a crime committed before the law changed.

Amendment 12, Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers - This single-issue amendment would bar public officials from lobbying during their terms and for six years after leaving office, and restrict current public officers from using their office for personal gain.

Amendment 13, Ends Dog Racing - The final amendment is also a single proposal, to end commercial dog racing involving wagering by 2020. This amendment remains in legal limbo, as a Tallahassee judge hearing a challenge by The Florida Greyhound Association pulled it from the ballot, but that ruling is being appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

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