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- The Rundown: A Quick Voting Guide
This is where things get fun for me, since its just a matter of breaking down what the ammendments mean. I’ll be putting up the ammendment text as presented on the ballot, and will run through the ups and downs, as well as what your vote will mean. For more detailed information on these, see www.VoteSmartFlorida.org.
- AMENDMENT #1: STATE PLANNING AND BUDGET PROCESS
Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to limit the amount of nonrecurring general revenue which may be appropriated for recurring purposes in any fiscal year to 3 percent of the total general revenue funds estimated to be available, unless otherwise approved by a three-fifths vote of the Legislature; to establish a Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which shall issue long-range financial outlooks; to provide for limited adjustments in the state budget without the concurrence of the full Legislature, as provided by general law; to reduce the number of times trust funds are automatically terminated; to require the preparation and biennial revision of a long-range state planning document; and to establish a Government Efficiency Task Force and specify its duties.
What it means: Basically, this amendment to the state constitution allows for up to 3% of the estimated available total state revenue to come from one-time fees, unless otherwise approved by 3/5 of the legislature. Additionally, it creates an appointed office, Government Efficiency Task Force, which issues long-range financial outlooks based on all provided budgets and estimates. Currently there is no central place where all this is done.
If you vote for it: This amendment would establish a Joint Budget Commission and would do what has not been done before: put botht he budget and revenue estimates together in one document. In addition to the annual budget, it will also required the Commission to create a long-term financial outlook. This would be an appointed office, every 4 years, by the Governor, Senate President, and Speaker of the House.
If you vote agaist it: Basically, if you vote no you’re saying that you like things just the way they are. Current general law, which prescribes requirements for each department and agency of state government to submit a planning document and supporting budget requires, is adequate and an additional task for ce is not needed.
Gnorb’s Take on This: While I’m all for fiscal responsibility, two sets of questions come to mind: (1) Why is this a constitutional amendment? Isn’t this better done as legislation, instead? After all, the constitution is intended to protect our rights, not as another route for governmental structural reform. (2) By “Appointed Office” — is this paid? Is this merely another office in which cronies can be put in, do nothing, and make money as a political “thank you?” I’ve never been much of a fan of appointed positions. I’m voting NO: Good idea; bad, bad, horrible place to put it in.
- AMENDMENT #3: REQUIRING BROADER PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS OR REVISIONS
Proposes an amendment to Section 5 of Article XI of the State Constitution to require that any proposed amendment to or revision of the State Constitution, whether proposed by the Legislature, by initiative, or by any other method, must be approved by at least 60 percent of the voters of the state voting on the measure, rather than by a simple majority. This proposed amendment would not change the current requirement that a proposed constitutional amendment imposing a new state tax or fee be approved by at least 2/3 of the voters of the state voting in the election in which such an amendment is considered.
If you vote for it: By implementing a higher threshold for approval of constitutional amendments, it broadens consensus because a higher percentage of Florida’s electorate will be required. Currently, the Florida constitution is the easiest to amend in the nation.
If you vote against it: The current requirement of 50%+1 approval to amend the state constitution would remain in place.
Gnorb’s Take on This: With all the commercials being put up for this, its easy to tell this is a battle of the titans, with business owners and constitutional purists favoring it, and populists and worker groups on the other voting against it. One side says “Let the people decide!” the other says “The people can decide, but let’s make sure it’s not just a flip of some coin that amends our constitution.” I’m voting YES, and siding with the business owners. The constitution should be harder to amend than it currently is. Ever wonder why we have monorails and pregnant pigs in the document? Do they belong there? If the people really want something, a 60% bar shouldn’t be a problem. A simple majority just panders to the politically lazy, the ones who flip a coin at the booth. The Constitution is too sacred a document for this type of treatment.
- AMENDMENT #4: PROTECT PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY YOUTH, FROM ADDICTION, DISEASE, AND OTHER HEALTH HAZARDS OF USING TOBACCO
To protect people, especially youth, from addiction, disease, and other health hazards of using tobacco, the Legislature shall use some Tobacco Settlement money annually for a comprehensive statewide tobacco education and prevention program using Centers for Disease Control best practices. Specifies some program components, emphasizing youth, requiring one-third of total annual funding for advertising. Annual funding is 15% of 2005 Tobacco Settlement payments to Florida, adjusted annually for inflation. Provides definitions. Effective immediately.
This amendment requires state government to appropriate approximately $57 million in 2007 for the Comprehensive Statewide Tobacco Education and Prevention Program. Thereafter, this amount will increase annually with inflation. This spending is expected to reduce tobacco consumption. As a result, some long-term savings to state and local government health and insurance programs are probable, but indeterminate. Also, minor revenue loss to state government is probable, but indeterminate.
If you vote for it: Florida receives more than $360 Million from the tobacco settlement per year, yet only $1 million is used to educate Florida youth about the dangers of tobacco use. Factoring inflation and increased cost of advertising, $57 millions appears to be both reasonable and fiscally responsible.
If you vote against it: The $57 million a year will be coming out of the state’s general revenue budget, which means less money for schools and rads. Technically this proposed amendment could be achieved through the Legislature instead of the Constitution.
Gnorb’s Take on It: I’ll ask it before, I’ll ask it again: why are there budgetary items in the freak’n Constitution? While a great idea — save for the whole “taking money from already struggling schools thing” — this should be done via legislation, not via an amendment. I vote NO.
- AMENDMENT #6: INCREASED HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
Proposing amendment of the State Constitution to increase the maximum additional homestead exemption for low-income seniors from $25,000 to $50,000 and to schedule the amendment to take effect January 1, 2007, if adopted.
If you vote for it: Authorizes the Legislature to allow counties to increase the maximum additional homestead exemption for low-income seniors from $25,000 to $50,000 a years, in addition to the currently existing option to add an additional $25,000 to that, bringing the total to $75,00 in property tax exemptions.
If you vote against it: Homestead exemptions would stay as listed in the Constitution: $25,000 to all owners of homestead properties, and allows local governments the option of offering an additional exemption to low-income seniors.
Gnorb’s Take on It: This doesn’t have a financial effect on the state, it has a financial effect on the counties which have to implement this. Loss to them could be as high as $36 million. This would could essentially bankrupt smaller municipalities. However, this legislation was first set forth in 1982, when properties cost $60,000 instead of $250,000, a price jump which has bankrupted more than enough seniors. I vote YES on this. although I wonder what will happen to cities like Sun City, where the population is almost entirely over 60. Note that I would rather this NOT be in the Constitution, but the whole homestead thing already is.
- AMENDMENT #7: PERMANENTLY DISABLED VETERANSâ€™ DISCOUNT ON HOMESTEAD AD VALOREM TAX
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to provide a discount from the amount of ad valorem tax on the homestead of a partially or totally permanently disabled veteran who is age 65 or older who was a Florida resident at the time of entering military service, whose disability was combat-related, and who was honorably discharged; to specify the percentage of the discount as equal to the percentage of the veteranâ€™s permanent service-connected disability; to specify qualification requirements for the discount; to authorize the Legislature to waive the annual application requirement in subsequent years by general law; and to specify that the provision takes effect December 7, 2006, is self-executing, and does not require implementing legislation.
If you vote for it: Would lower taxes for disabled veterans by allowing them to take discounts on their homestead property tax equal in proportion to the amount of disability as determined by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Applies only to veterans who can provide the following: proof of residency at the time of entering service, proof that the injury was combat-related, copy of the veteran’s honorable discharge, and official letter from the US Department of Veterans Affairs stating the percentage of the veteran’s service connected permanent disability.
If you vote against it: Veterans eligible for the current law which authorizes a $5,000 exemption for certain ex-serviemen who are disabled to a degree of 10% or more as a result of service in war would still receive the $5,000 exemption.
Gnorb’s Take on It: You want to know how to support our troops? Don’t worry about sticking an insipid little sticker on your car and living the suburbia life, vote for this instead and tell the veterans who have suffered a disability due to their service a big fat “thank you”. Even though this has a $20 million impact on counties, I vote YES. Note that I would rather this NOT be in the Constitution, but the whole homestead thing already is.
- AMENDMENT #8: EMINENT DOMAIN
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to prohibit the transfer of private property taken by eminent domain to a natural person or private entity; providing that the Legislature may by general law passed by a three-fifths vote of the membership of each house of the Legislature permit exceptions allowing the transfer of such private property; and providing that this prohibition on the transfer of private property taken by eminent domain is applicable if the petition of taking that initiated the condemnation proceeding was filed on or after January 2, 2007.
If you vote for it: Would require that private property taken by eminent domain must be retained for 10 years before it may be transferred to another private entity. The Legislator may provide exceptions to this limitation if passed by a 3/5 vote of the membership of each house. In other words, unless the Legislator decided otherwise by a 3/5 majority, some big developer can’t go to a poor, dilapidated black neighborhood and tell its residents “here’s $100,000 for this crappy house that has valued at $100,000, now I and the city are forcing you to leave so I can build this condo which will bring much more tax revenue to the city.”
If you vote against it: Additional limits will not be placed on eminent domain. It would remain in its current form as stated in the Florida Constitution, Section 6, Article X, “prohibits takings of private property unless the taking is for a ‘public purpose’ and the property owner is paid ‘full compensation.'”
Gnorb’s Take on It: I hate eminent domain. While I understand its importance, I feel it immoral to tell a person who’s been living in their home for 45 years that they have to leave so a new business park can be built. I vote YES. If the issue is important enough, the Legislator can always take up the issue and decide against the property owner. This type of protection issue is exactly the type of issue that should be in the Constitution.