By KrisAnne Hall, Constitutional Education & Consulting
This guide is designed to inform the voter on certain aspects that I do not see being presented in other voter guides. The voter is always ultimately responsible for their vote. I do not take responsibility for anyone’s vote; we will all answer individually one day for our choices. With that in mind, be sure that you VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE!
As a general rule I am opposed to Constitutional Amendments, unless it is a truly Constitutional issue. Our Constitution is supposed to be the Supreme Law of the State, establishing guidelines for government, fundamental rights belonging to Floridians, and principles by which we are to govern. Statutes, on the other hand, are supposed to be the instrument we use to enact laws through legislation in our Republican form of government. Florida has gotten very lazy about these distinctions.
I had hoped we had learned about cluttering up our Constitution when we passed the “pregnant pig” and the “super train” amendments. For the rest of the country, yes, Florida did establish constitutionally protected rights for pigs, yet somehow we have a problem establishing constitutionally protected rights for unborn children. The Constitutional Amendment we passed for a High Speed Rail nearly bankrupted the state. We established that the people had a constitutional right to a form of transportation that we had no means to fund. Consequently, we had to pass another Constitutional Amendment to withdraw the previous one, uselessly expending an enormous amount of tax payer dollars on both ends.
With those two examples in mind, I would like those who view this guide to keep in mind a few things:
When you vote YES and pass a Constitutional Amendment you are creating a constitutionally protected RIGHT to something which includes the appropriate protections and assignments.
Constitutionally protected rights must be provided under equal access of the law to all citizens of the state, without discrimination.
If you vote YES, the only way to fix that amendment is through another Constitutional Amendment.
The amendment process represents a great expense to the tax payers. Laws should be passed by LEGISLATORS and put into statutes. That is how Republican Governments work. Repealing or amending statutory laws are part of the everyday legislative process. So if legislators forget to put something in a law or the law turns out to be a bad idea, the legislators simply amend or repeal the law through proper legislative measures. The Constitution provides the basis for the Legislature to create these laws consistent with the Constitution with language such as “The Legislature may, by general law, enact…” NEARLY EVERY ONE OF THE AMENDMENTS ON THIS BALLOT SHOULD HAVE BEEN RESERVED TO STATUTORY LAW AND NOT CONSTITUTIONAL LAW.
Why would our legislators want to use the amendment process rather than the proper legislative process? In some of these instances, they tried, but the legislation failed. They are cluttering up our Constitution to compensate for failed legislation. Perhaps in other instances, by enacting a law through the constitutional amendment process, they can mitigate their responsibility for the law; after all, it was the “will of the people.” We are a representative government, not a democracy. Our constituency is not adequately informed to make the necessary decisions on these amendments (e.g. pregnant pigs and bankrupting super trains).
If the Legislators insist on using the amendment process instead of the proper legislative process, I frankly see very little need to continue having legislators. We could simply move to a pure democracy, fire all those who feel too burdened to do their job and save some money.
We currently have 7 volumes of statutory law. If we are not careful, our Constitution will look the same.
Amendment 1 Health Care Services: (This amendment will add another section to the Constitution)
This legislation is simply the people engaging in the right of the people to nullify unconstitutional federal law. (See Federalist Papers 33 & 64) If this amendment passes, it could provide the state government with the courage necessary to facilitate the real solution: the governor and legislators to nullify this unconstitutional law through legislation. However, if it fails, it could have the opposite effect, which would be very bad.
Let’s look at what a YES vote will accomplish…
- Would represent the expressed desire of Floridians to opt out of federal health care reform requirements.
- This would be an expression in support of nullification by the people of Florida.
- This may serve to embolden the Governor and the legislature to stand against the Healthcare Act as unconstitutional and support Liberty and work toward a state free from federal control.
- Would add language to the Florida Constitution some could argue is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution if determined by the courts to be in conflict with federal law.
- This assertion presented in this type of law suit would be based upon an improper interpretation of the Supremacy Clause. In this circumstance, standing for what is constitutional and what is a true reflection of liberty is worth the chance of a law suit.
- Would prevent the Florida Legislature from passing health care coverage mandates.
Amendment 2: Veterans Disabled Due to Combat Injury; Homestead Property Tax Discount: (This amendment adds another section to the Constitution)
Interestingly, Amendment 2 exemplifies the very argument against legislation through constitutional amendments. On November 7, 2006, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment known as Amendment 7. This amendment provided a property tax discount on homestead property owned by eligible veterans. To be eligible, a veteran must have an honorable discharge from military service, be at least 65 years old, be partially disabled with a permanent service connected disability all or a portion of which must be combat-related, and must have been a Florida resident at the time of entering military service. Apparently when this amendment was designed, several provisions were left out, for whatever reason. These omissions have now come to light and the only way to fix them is through the amendment process. If the original provisions had been passed through the appropriate channels of legislation, a simple amendment to the statute could have been easily passed while the legislature was in session. Now Floridians will incur not only the cost of employing our legislators to do their job, but the cost of amending the constitution when the legislators don’t want to, or are unable to do their job.
A vote YES on Amendment 2:
- Would give the existing homestead tax exemption to disabled veterans who were not Florida residents at the time of entering military service.
- Would reduce property tax revenue for schools and local government services by an estimated $15 million combined over the first three years of its implementation, and by an estimated $7.6 million each year thereafter.
- Would expand the property tax exemption for some disabled veterans who are not currently eligible for a similar property tax exemption.
Amendment 3: State Government Revenue Limitation (This amendment would add another section to the Constitution)
This amendment is an example of the legislature compensating for failed legislation. Beginning in 2008, several proposals similar to Amendment 3, and sometimes referred to as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), were defeated in the Legislature. So once again the tax payers are getting double dipped for something that legislators could not enact. Not only that, since this is an amendment and NOT legislation, making any necessary adjustments to the formula enacted by this amendment would be slow, costly, and inconvenient.
A vote YES on Amendment 3:
- Would replace the existing state revenue limitation based on personal income growth with a new limitation based on changes in population and inflation.
- This appears to be a form of baseline budgeting. Baseline budgeting is when the budget contains a built in, consistent increase in taxes allotted to the budget.
- It seems unclear that this would be indeed a “more restrictive” form of taxation. A tax rate based upon personal income growth is reflective of the prosperity of the state.
- If the prosperity of the state is in decline, then so must the tax rate.
- However, the population,statistically, is NEVER in decline but always increasing. Therefore the legislature would seem to have the ability to increase taxes even when the prosperity of the state would not support it.
- Would revise the current formula regarding government revenue (taxes, licenses, fees, fines, or charges for services).
- Other states have attempted this formula through legislation and have had to revise their legislation multiple times in attempts to get the formula right. Since this is an amendment to the Constitution and NOT legislation, the adjusting of the formula will be slow, ineffective and very costly. This could cause a significant delay in correcting errors or inadequacies in the formula and cost the tax payers unreasonable inconvenience and possible monetary loss.
Amendment 4: Property Tax Limitations; Property Value Decline; Reduction for Nonhomestead Assessment Increases; Delay of Scheduled Repeal (This amendment would add TWO new sections to the Constitution)
I must reiterate my concern. Why is this not an issue of legislation? What if some necessary provision is omitted from this amendment and it must be changed? Are we ready to pay for another constitutional amendment that would be necessary if the formulas incorporated needed adjusting?
A vote YES on Amendment 4:
- Would reduce local government revenue by cutting in half the taxable rate on non-homestead property, such as commercial income properties and second homes.
- This amendment is the state government telling the local governments how to assess their taxes.
- Would reduce local government revenue by prohibiting increases in the assessed value of homestead property and certain non-homestead property in any year where the market value of the property decreases.
- Would reduce local government revenue by extending an additional homestead tax exemption to some first-time homeowners.
Amendment 5: State Courts
This perhaps is the first amendment that is justifiably an amendment. However, I believe the drafters have tried to do too much in one bite. In doing so, may have contributed to the amendment’s defeat. To understand this amendment you must understand the problem that this amendment attempts to fix. Many argue that the putting the Florida Bar Association, a non-governmental entity built of judges and lawyers, in charge of policing judges and lawyers is much like the patients running the asylum. This amendment attempts to put proper checks and balances within the court system by placing the people in greater control of their judges through the elected representatives.
A vote YES on Amendment 5 would:
- Require the Florida Senate to vote to confirm or reject a gubernatorial appointment to the state Supreme Court
- Many states use this process as well as the federal government.
- It is designed to give the people a say in their Supreme Court appointments through legislative review.
- It would help ensure a better reflection of the values of the voters, rather than the whim of one person, the governor.
- Allow the Legislature to repeal statewide judicial rules adopted by the Supreme Court by a simple majority vote instead of a two-thirds vote
- I believe this provision could be seen as violation of separation of powers and would bring about multiple law suits at the taxpayers’ expense.
- Expand the ability of the state House of Representatives to review confidential files about judges, even if they are not being considered for impeachment
- This is an aspect of the model of checks and balances that is in place in our US Constitution. This will allow the elected representatives of the people to better police the activity of elected and appointed judges.
Amendment 6 Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights (This amendment would add another section to the Constitution)
I understand the intentions of this amendment; however, I do not believe it is effective. I believe it will cost the tax payers a great deal and perform no relatively significant function. Federal law prohibits the expenditure of federal funds for most abortions (exceptions include rape, incest and threats to a mother’s life). If passed, Amendment 6 would reiterate those prohibitions in the state constitution. Florida law already prohibits public funds from being spent on abortion; this amendment would not change current abortion funding practices. This amendment spends tax dollars to simply show a majority of the state’s voters support existing governmental restrictions. We could probably do that with a poll and save some money. The only amendment that will do what the proponents of this amendment want to do is a “Personhood” amendment. But “Personhood” amendments are seen as “extreme” by opponents. This seems to be a compromise of no effect.
A vote YES on Amendment 6:
- Would mean that Florida’s constitutional right to privacy is not applicable to abortion-related issues.
- This would open the door to multiple law suits that have a reasonable prospect at success.
- Removing a person’s right to privacy is a two way street. Do we want all persons seeking counseling regarding abortion issues to lose their right to privacy, even those seeking pro-life counseling?
- If we remove the right to privacy for adults in an aspect the world sees as a “medical procedure,” will we be giving the government the authority to expand that loss of privacy to other medical procedures?
- Could allow more restrictive abortion laws to be found constitutional by Florida courts.
- Would restate in the Florida Constitution federal and state law that prohibits public funds from being used for abortion or health insurance coverage of abortion.
Amendment 8: Religious Freedom
America offers the greatest protection of religious freedom anywhere in the world. Florida’s Constitution mirrors those protections. We do not need greater religious freedom, we need greater protection from government intrusion in the church. Amendment 8 is not about religious freedom it is about religious funding and would invite further government control on the church. Not only that, because all government funds must be used in a nondiscriminatory manner, this amendment would require the government to fund ALL RELIGIONS; Islamic, Satanic, and any other group of people calling themselves a “religion.” Is that how you want YOUR tax dollars spent? For an in depth explanation, please read this article titled; “Trusting Government Over God.”
A vote YES on Amendment 8:
- Would repeal the “no aid” provision in the Florida Constitution and allow public money to go to private religious institutions.
- That means taxpayers will fund ALL religious institutions, allowing the funding of Islam and all extreme cult religions, (do you want to financially support religious actions of those like the Westboro Baptists who protest military funerals?).
- Would not expand religious freedom, we already have religious freedom in this state and in this nation.
- This amendment is not about “freedom” it is about “funding.”
- Would allow for a greater number of religious programs to be supported by taxpayer funding.
- Opening the door for the government to control these religious programs and institutions through regulation of the tax payers’ funds.
- Would establish a constitutional right to receive tax dollars for the payment of religious institutions.
- If a religious educational institution wanted to refuse this funding and avoid government controls, it is feasible that the parent could sue that school for interfering with their constitutionally protected right.
Amendment 9: Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder (This amendment would add another section to the Constitution)
Again, why is this not an issue of legislation? What if some necessary provision is omitted from this amendment and it must be changed? Are we ready to pay for another constitutional amendment when this one needs to be amended or repealed?
A Yes vote for Amendment 9:
- Would grant full homestead property tax relief to the surviving spouses of first responders who die in the line of duty.
- Would enshrine in the state Constitution a law that currently offers full property tax relief to surviving spouses of veterans who die while on active duty.
- Would allow spouses whose partners died before the passage of the Amendment to be eligible for the tax exemption.
Amendment 10: Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption (This amendment would add another section to the Constitution)
Another legislative issue NOT a constitutional issue.
A vote YES for Amendment 10:
- Would double the tax exemption on tangible personal property (furniture, fixtures, machinery, tools, shelving, signs and equipment.)
- Would allow cities and counties to grant additional tangible personal property tax exemptions.
- Would reduce local property tax revenues across the state by an estimated $61 million combined over the first three years it is implemented.
Amendment 11: Additional Homestead Exemption; Low-Income Seniors Who Maintain Long-Term Residency on Property; Equal to Assessed Value
Another legislative issue NOT a constitutional issue.
A vote YES on Amendment 11:
- Would authorize cities and counties to grant a full homestead exemption to certain low-income seniors.
- Would require a super-majority vote by local governments to grant the exemption.
- Would reduce tax revenues to local governments across the state by an estimated $18.5 million combined over the first two years it is implemented.
Amendment 12: Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System
Ironically this amendment would create a constitutional requirement that would force the establishment of a bureaucracy.
A vote YES on Amendment 12:
- Would create a new council of student body presidents from which the student representative to the Board of Governors would be selected.
- Would remove the Florida Student Association president from the Board of Governors.
- Would require all state university student body presidents to participate in the newly created council.
 A special “thank you” to the League of Women Voters for their valuable information on some of these amendments.