Fla. Ballot Initiatives Range From Obamacare to Abortion

Thursday, 01 Nov 2012 04:42 PM

By Katie Lotman and Todd Beamon

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Florida residents will be voting on eleven ballot measures on Tuesday. They range from giving the state the opportunity to opt out of Obamacare to barring public funds for certain abortions.

There also are several measures relating to taxes.

Below are highlights of the eleven ballot measures and the issues surrounding them.

Amendment 1
Topic: Healthcare Services
  • This amendment would give Florida the ability to opt out of Obamacare.
  • The major concern about this amendment is that it is in opposition of federal law so if it is passed it could be deemed unconstitutional.
  • Proponents say it would show the federal government that overstepped its boundaries with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law on a 5-4 vote in June.

Amendment 2
Topic: Homestead Property Tax Discount to Veterans
  • This would provide a discount on property taxes to disabled veterans residing in Florida who were not residents prior to their military service.
  • Supporters say the amendment would benefit older veterans who were injured in combat but who did not live in Florida when they entered the military. The discount can help with medical bills, and may even allow veterans to stay in their homes longer. It also might attract more veterans to Florida, stimulating the state’s housing market.
  • Opponents say state and local governments face huge budget shortfalls in part because of diminished property tax returns from the collapse of the housing market. Schools and local governments must maintain the tax base or weigh cuts to public services.
Amendment 3
Topic: State Government Revenue Limitation
  • The amendment sets the state’s revenue limit based on a formula that accounts for inflation and population growth.
  • Supporters say the amendment would ensure that Florida’s budget never grows beyond a family’s ability to pay the taxes and fees needed to finance that growth. It would make government more efficient, they say.
  • Opponents contend that the amendment would adversely affect the state’s ability to provide public services at a sufficient level.

Amendment 4
Topic: Property tax limitations; property value decline; reduction for non-homesteaded assessment increases; delay of scheduled repeal.
  • The amendment would reduce the maximum annual increase in taxable value of non-homestead properties (or properties that are not a primary residence) from 10 percent to 5 percent.
  • It would also provide an extra homestead exemption for first-time home buyers and allows lawmakers to prohibit assessment increases for properties with decreasing market values.
  • The amendment delays until 2023 the repeal of this action which is presently scheduled to occur in 2019.
  • Proponents say it will stimulate growth in Florida.
  • Opponents say the amendment will shift the tax burden to primary residents of Florida, while giving special benefits to out-of-state property owners.

Amendment 5

Topic: State Courts
  • The amendment proposes that the Senate confirm Supreme Court justices and gives lawmakers control over rule changes of the court system. The amendment also requires the Judicial Qualifications Commission, an investigative body of judicial misconduct, to make its files available to the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
  • Supporters say the measure would make the appellate court system run more efficiently and add a layer of accountability before Supreme Court justices are appointed.
  • Opponents contend the measure is a dangerous attempt to exert political influence over the judicial branch by giving legislators more authority.

Amendment 6
Topic: Prohibition of Public Funding of Abortions
  • Amendment 6 would make a part of the state constitution the existing federal ban on public funding of most abortions. It would also narrow the state’s privacy law used to challenge abortion laws.
  • Besides outlawing public funding for most abortions, supporters say the law would open the way for legislators to pass future regulation requiring parental consent for minors seeking an abortion.
  • Opponents say the law interferes with a woman’s right to make decisions about her reproductive health.

Amendment 8
Topic: Religious Freedom
  • The amendment was originally Amendment 7 but after legal challenge, it was reworked and reinstated as Amendment 8.
  • The amendment would allow religious institutions to receive taxpayer funding by removing the prohibition currently in Florida’s Constitution.
  • Supporters say the amendment would preserve the status quo and end discrimination against individuals and religious organizations that provide social services to the broader community. The amendment will ensure preservation of many services that the needy take for granted.
  • Opponents contend that the amendment is not about religious freedom but is an attempt by the state to gain voter approval for financing religious organizations with taxpayer money.

Amendment 9
Topic: Homestead property tax exemption for spouses of military veterans or first responders.
  • The surviving spouses of military veterans who die while on active duty and surviving spouses of first responders who die in the line of duty would receive a full property tax exemption under the amendment.
  • Supporters say families left behind would be greatly helped by the amendment.
  • Opponents say tax revenues needed to operate schools and to provide services would be cut.
Amendment 10
Topic: Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption
  • The amendment would double the tax exemption for tangible personal property – or property that can be moved – and allow local governments to raise the exemption.
  • Those in favor say Florida’s economy will be stimulated by giving tax relief to small businesses.
  • Those opposed to the amendment say local governments struggling to provide basic services would lose millions in tax revenue.
Amendment 11
Topic: Additional Homestead Exemption to Low-Income Seniors
  • Low-income seniors who have lived in their home for more than 25 years would receive an additional property tax exemption under the amendment.
  • Supporters say the amendment will greatly benefit elderly residents on fixed incomes. The discount can help with medical bills and may allow more seniors to remain at home longer.
  • Opponents say diminished property tax returns cause budget shortfalls to state and local governments. Schools and local governments must maintain the tax base.
Amendment 12
Topic: Appointment of Student Body President to State
University System of Florida Board of Governors
  • The amendment would create a new council of university student presidents to select a student representative to the Board of Governors of the State University System.
  • Supporters say every university within the Florida system would be represented with the appointment of a student body president to the board.
  • Opponents say the amendment is simply unnecessary.

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