University Press

The University Press’ guide to the 2018 amendment ballot

Voters can decide on 12 amendments this year on Nov. 6.

Make+sense+of+the+12+amendments+on+the+ballot+before+Election+Day.+Photo+courtesy+of+Flickr
Make sense of the 12 amendments on the ballot before Election Day. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Make sense of the 12 amendments on the ballot before Election Day. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Make sense of the 12 amendments on the ballot before Election Day. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Nimisha Rajendran, Contributing Writer

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Tomorrow’s election isn’t just a race between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis for governor — it’s also an opportunity to vote on 12 amendments affecting the Florida Constitution.

This election cycle, the ballot consists of 12 proposed amendments that revolve around everything from tax reform to dog races. But the language used to describe the amendments can be confusing, so here’s a breakdown of what each amendment means.

You can find your polling place here.

Amendment 1

Cutting taxes on homes

Amendment 1 proposes changes to Florida’s homestead exemptions, which is when the taxable value of a home is lowered.

Currently, Florida homeowners have a $50,000 reduction for primary residences valued at $75,000 or more. For example, if your house was valued at $150,000, you would only be taxed as if it were $100,000. The proposed bill would add $25,000 to the current $50,000 for homes over $100,000.

The top 60 percent of homes in Florida are eligible for this tax cut. The other 40 percent do not have an assessed home value of $100,000, according to Florida Today.

However, these tax cuts do not exempt taxpayers from school district taxes, which often go hand in hand with property taxes and sustain public schools in the area.

Amendment 2

Preventing largely increased taxes on some properties

Amendment 2 looks to make sure that the assessed value of non-homestead properties, such as rental properties, second homes, and commercial property, cannot rise more than 10 percent per year.

This amendment puts protections in place so that increases in home value do not impact renters.

In previous years, the assessed values have been limited to a 10 percent increase each year. This amendment proposes that the cap remain at 10 percent permanently.

Like Amendment 1, the cap does not apply to school district taxes, as they are a separate entity that help maintain the public school system.

Amendment 3

Voter approval of casinos and gambling

Amendment 3 revolves around the authorization of gambling and casino-style games in Florida.

Voters will have the right to decide whether or not a new casino or other means of gambling can open in the state. Everything from card games, dog and horse tracks, and slot machines are included.

The bill would require anyone attempting to open a casino to get thousands of signatures to get it on a ballot for people to vote on. However, this amendment does not affect gambling casinos built on Native American lands.

Amendment 4

Restoring felons’ right to vote

Amendment 4 is a provision that would give convicted felons the right to vote.  

This provision does not apply to those who committed murder or sexual assault, and would only come into effect after the felons have finished their sentences with probation and parole, which is where people are let out of jail early on the promise of good behavior.

Voting yes would restore the voting rights of 1.6 million Floridians charged with a felony. Voting no would oppose the restoration of their voting rights.

Amendment 5

Changing Florida Legislature’s bill-passing system to a two-thirds vote

Amendment 5 favors a two-thirds vote over a simple majority, meaning that a bill can pass by a difference of one vote, in every chamber of the Florida Legislature.

However, this only applies to bills regarding new taxes or fees.

Voting yes would mean that a two-thirds majority in the Florida House is required to pass these bills. Voting no would mean a simple majority would be enough to pass the bills.  

Amendment 6

Victims’ rights, judges’ retirement ages, and interpreting laws

Amendment 6 includes multiple sections on different topics.

First, Marsy’s Law Crime Victim Rights gives crime victims and their families and representatives more provisions and protections. This includes the right to be notified of and present at trials, the right to protection from the accused, the right to be notified of the accused’s jail escape or release, and the right to refuse depositions, which are sworn testimonies outside of court, or interviews.

The second part of the amendment proposes to change the retirement age of judges from 70 to 75 years of age.

The third part of the amendment prohibits state courts from consulting governmental agencies to interpret laws and statutes. This forces judges and hearing officers to decide for themselves whether a law was interpreted correctly.

Amendment 7

Veterans’ death benefits, college fees, and universities in the constitution

Amendment 7 also includes a few different parts.

The first section revolves around death benefits for veterans and first responders, including paramedics. It would require employers to provide death benefits, including monetary compensation, to surviving spouses of those who died during duty. This would also include waiving the educational expenses for the surviving children or spouse.

The second part of the amendment calls for more than a simple majority in terms of deciding college fees. For example, a 13-member university board of trustees would need nine member votes for the decision to pass, instead of seven.

The last element of this bill is the proposal to include the current state college system in Florida’s constitution which would make it so that the colleges’ responsibilities, statement of purpose, and the role of trustees are clearly stated. This would require a single state college system with all state and public community colleges. It would also require a local board of trustees in charge of each institution.

Amendment 8 (cancelled)

School board terms, control of charter schools

Florida’s Supreme Court removed Amendment 8 from the ballot, saying it misled voters and failed to mention charter schools by name.

Amendment 8 looked to limit school board term limits to eight years, allow the state to control charter schools, and require schools to teach “civic literacy,” or the knowledge required to be an active citizen and create change.  

Amendment 9

Banning offshore drilling and vaping in the workplace

Amendment 9 is a two-part bill concerning very different topics.

The first part of the amendment would ban the drilling of oil or natural gas in state waters. This prohibition extends from the shore to the outermost boundaries of the state.

The second part of the amendment proposes a ban on vaping in workplaces. Such devices include anything that produces the vapor of nicotine and other substances. Exceptions to this amendment include residential spaces not used for healthcare or childcare, and retail smoke or vapor shops.

Amendment 10

Veteran aid, elections for locals in power, and legislative sessions

The first part of Amendment 10 ensures that the Florida Legislature will keep the Department of Veterans’ Affairs going. Furthermore, the amendment looks to create an office for domestic security and counterterrorism within law enforcement.

The second part of the bill ensures the election of sheriffs, election supervisors, and multiple bureaucratic positions in the county.

The last part changes the annual legislative session from March to January in even-numbered years and removes the legislatures’ authority to change the date.

Amendment 11

Illegal immigrants’ land ownership, criminal charges, and high-speed trains

Amendment 11 comes with three distinct parts.

Florida’s constitution has a clause that prevents non-citizens from buying, selling, or owning land. Voting yes on this amendment would erase that clause, and voting no would keep it.  

The second part of this amendment involves the “Savings Clause,” which forbids making changes to criminal sentencing laws after the fact. For example, if the Florida Legislature changes the minimum sentence for an offense from 25 years to 10 years, those who are on trial or already convicted will still have to serve the full 25 years.

Voting yes would repeal this clause and make it so that those who are on trial or convicted will serve according to updated criminal statutes, and voting no would not change the current law. 

The final part of the amendment would delete a clause in the Florida constitution approving of a high-speed train system. Floridians voted not to implement the train system, but the clause was never removed from the constitution. Voting yes would delete that clause, while voting no will leave it as is.

Amendment 12

Banning public officials’ lobbying of government

Amendment 12 expands on the ethics of public and elected officials, including judges.

The bill prohibits officials and their employees from lobbying or persuading the state and federal government during their terms and six years after. It would also ban these officials from using their positions for personal gain.

Amendment 13

Banning dog racing

Amendment 13 would ban betting on dog races, and make dog races themselves illegal.

Currently, Florida is one of 10 states where betting on dog races is permitted. Voting yes on this bill supports the ban of the wagering and operation of dog races. Voting no would keep it.

Nimisha Rajendran is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or any other stories, email [email protected].

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