6 constitutional amendments on Nov. 4 ballot
Millions of Florida voters will go to the polls beginning Monday to decide the next president and their local elected officials, but they also will put forward a yes or no vote on six amendments to the Florida Constitution.
These amendments include property rights of non-citizens, a statewide definition of marriage, changes in assessed value of residential property, property tax exemptions, assessments of waterfront property, and options for funding community colleges.
Three other ballot initiatives, Amendments 5, 7 and 9, were removed by the Florida Supreme Court in September. Two were related to public education and one was a tax-swap amendment.
Ken Wilkinson, property appraiser for Lee County, serves on the Florida Budget and Taxation Reform Commission that introduced four of these amendments. The 25-member commission meets every 20 years and spent 14 months studying the Florida Constitution to make amendment recommendations.
Amendment 3 will allow residents throughout the state to retrofit their existing single family homes and not have it included in their taxable value. These retrofits would include additional hurricane protection and renewable energy sources.
“That cost will not be added into your taxable value for ad valorem purposes,” said Wilkinson. “We won’t re-appraise it if you did that. Overall, all the taxpayers end up saving money.”
Another amendment put forward by the commission centers around land conservation. Amendment 4 will allow a landowner to not be taxed for putting a perpetual conservation easement on their property. Wilkinson explained it was introduced to put some of the conservation responsibility onto landowners and not the government programs like the Conservation 20/20 program.
“We are spending a lot of money buying property and that is the tax payers’,” said Wilkinson. “It saves money that the government won’t go out and buy it from them so they won’t develop it.”
Amendment 6 was introduced personally by Wilkinson who said there is a growing problem in Florida with waterfront properties. If passed it would no longer allow appraisers to tax under the “highest and best” uses of waterfront property.
“We are talking about small working waterfront businesses who can’t have that business unless its on the water,” he said. “We are losing it because some property appraisers are applying high and best use, valuing it as if it were a condominium development.”
Another amendment would allow counties the power to levy a five-year tax to fund specific projects at local community colleges. Counties would vote on levying the tax and it wouldn’t automatically renew, said Wilkinson.
“We know education is looking for methods of funding and community colleges provide a tremendous service,” he said.
The Florida Legislature introduced Amendment 1 which relates to the property rights of non-citizens. It would strip the Legislature of its ability to regulate or prohibit the ownership or possession of real property by “aliens not eligible for citizenship.”
Perhaps the most controversial of all six amendments is the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment that would define marriage between “one man and one woman as husband and wife.”
(Source: League of Women Voters, Tallahassee)
Amendment 1: Relating to property rights of ineligible aliens.
An amendment to the Florida Constitution to delete provisions allowing the Legislature to regulate and prohibit what real property can be owned or possessed by non-citizens ineligible for citizenship.
Pro: The amendment would remove an outdated and discriminatory passage from our Declaration of Rights.
Con: Constitutional action is not necessary at this time because there is no present Florida statute prohibiting ownership of property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.
Amendment 2: Florida marriage protection amendment
An amendment that would legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Pro: Supporters say the amendment would protect children by ensuring that only one form of marriage, between a man and a woman, would ever be celebrated in Florida. Florida statute already provides for a single form of marriage could be overturned by a court on constitutional grounds.
Con: A statute already provides for a single form of marriage in Florida. Health care and pension benefit plans which cover unmarried couples living together and which are now legally valid may be adversely affected.
Amendment 3: Changes and improvements not affecting the assessed value of residential real property.
The amendment would prohibit changes or improvements to residential real property, which increases certain factors – installations to protect from wind damage or renewable energy devices – in assessing property values for ad valorem taxes.
Pro: Hurricane safety may be improved in residential property. Residential property values may be increased. The amendment may relieve the burden on non-renewable energy sources.
Con: Local revenues could suffer. Individuals’ savings may be minimal. The amendment does not apply to new construction.
Amendment 4: Property tax exemption of perpetually preserved land; classification and assessment of land use for conservation.
The amendment would require the Florida Legislature to provide property tax exemptions for real property encumbered by perpetual conservations easements or other conservation purposes. Also requires Legislature to classify and assess land use for conservation purposes.
Pro: The amendment may encourage further conservation of land in its natural.
Con: Local revenue will be decreased. Existing policies already favor those who preserve their land. The amendment would not require public access to the lands to which it applies.
Amendment 6: Assessment of working waterfront property based upon current use.
The amendment provides an assessment upon land use for commercial fishing purposes, land used for vessel launches into water, marinas and dry-stacks, water-dependent marine manufacturing facilities, and other fishing facilities.
Pro: Access to public waterfront areas would more likely remain at current levels rather than continuing to diminish. This measure may reduce property taxes on working waterfront properties and thereby reduce pressure to sell those properties to developers.
Con: Local revenues would suffer. The measure allows the Legislature to define terms and impose conditions and limitations on any tax break working waterfront owners receive.
Amendment 8: Local option for community college funding
This amendment to the State Constitution would allow counties to levy a local option sales tax to supplement community college funding.
Pro: Community colleges serve as a gateway to the university system and to greater employment opportunities; this amendment could increase their funding. Voters would have the option of denying any proposed local-option sales tax increase under the proposal.
Con: Sales taxes impose a greater burden on lower-income families. The measure shifts the burden of funding community colleges from state to local authorities. The amendment could create unequal opportunities for Florida residents based on the economy in their county of residence