Florida Constitutional Amendments: What You Need to Know

Source: Florida Trend Election 2008.

Amendment 1
Repeal of Alien Land Law

Sponsor: State Sen. Steve Geller (D) of Hallandale Beach and other lawmakers

Title: Relating to Property Rights/Ineligible Aliens

What it does: Deletes an outdated provision of the state Constitution that authorizes the Legislature to regulate the property rights of “ineligible aliens.” Read the background here.

Sounds like a good regulation to me. We don’t want any ineligible aliens settling in and making crop circles and killing livestock.

Amendment 2
Gay Marriage Ban

Sponsor: John Stemberger, chairman of Florida4Marriage.org (now called Yes2Marriage.org)

Title: Florida Marriage Protection Amendment

What it does: Defines marriage as the legal union of only “one man and one woman as husband and wife.” If passed, it would ban gay marriage and civil unions and could endanger publicly recognized domestic partnerships if they are deemed to be “substantially equivalent” to marriage. Miami Beach, Gainesville, West Palm Beach, Key West as well as Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties all have domestic partner registries. Read the background here.

Well, I’m going to get all traditionalist on this one.

Amendment 3
Hurricane and Energy Tax Break

Sponsor: Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission)

Title: Changes and Improvement Not Affecting the Assessed Value of Residential Real Property

What it does: Provides homeowners with a small property tax reduction when they make storm-hardening improvements such as adding hurricane shutters and hurricane-resistant shingles, doors and windows. It would also exempt renewable energy source devices like solar water heating systems. The property tax reduction would apply to rental apartments, second homes or vacation homes as well as homesteads. Read the background here.

The state of Florida wants to give me a tax break to do something that is in my financial best interest anyway? Say WHAT? How about a tax break if I get my house treated for termites, or if I decide NOT to poke out my eye with a pointy stick? And why the hell would something like this belong in the Florida constitution?

Amendment 4
Conservation Land Tax Break

Sponsor: Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission)

Title: Property Tax Exemption of Perpetually Conserved Land; Classification and Assessment of Land Used for Conservation

What it does: This amendment would do two things: It would create a complete property tax exemption for conservation easements — land that a property owner agrees to maintain in its current state and not develop; second, it allows the Legislature to create a new classification of “conservation” land that would qualify for a tax reduction much in the same way the state provides “greenbelt” tax breaks to agricultural landowners. Read the background here.

Hmmmm. I can see where this might belong in the constitution. I haven’t made up my mind whether to vote for or against yet.

Amendment 6
Working Waterfront Tax Break

Sponsor: Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission)

Title: Assessment of Working Waterfront Property Based Upon Current Use

What it does: Provides a tax break for marinas, boat yards, commercial fishing facilities and other “working waterfront” businesses by assessing their property according to its current use, rather than by “highest and best,” or potential, use. Read the background here.

This is one that I strongly back. I hate to see small businesses taxed out of their property because tax assessors think that high rise condominiums would be the “highest and best use” of the property. My only quibble is that it shouldn’t be limited to waterfront property but all property should be taxed on what is there, not what would make the most money for the local government there.

Amendment 8
New Sales Tax for Community College Districts

Sponsor: Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission)

Title: Local Option Community College Funding

What it does: Voters in a county could choose to impose a local option sales tax to supplement community college funding. Any taxes approved by the counties would sunset after five years but could be reauthorized by the voters. Read the background here.

Voters should be able to tax themselves for any reason they so choose. I don’t think it requires a constitutional amendment, however, just for community colleges.

22 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Bart Coyle said,

    Regarding Amendment 2 your intrepretation is a lie. People will lose benefits. People will lose their health care insurance as they did in Michigan. I know you are probalby a Stemberger fanatic but you promoting his initiative means that you and your site is a bunch of lies. Get the facts before you suggest that this amendment won’t hurt anyone. But then I guess you could care less that a person or a family, defined differently then you and Stemberger understand them, or some kid could lose their health insurance.

  2. 2

    swampie said,

    What part of “traditionalist” don’t you understand? If you’re worried about insurance, get a job that offers it.

    Oh, and re-read the site. What a moron.

  3. 3

    kc said,

    Swampie, in many ways I’m Traditionalist, but in others I’m so non-conformist it’s just not funny. I have an impression you’re much the same way. This is a line from my Statement of Faith, written when I was pondering the way of the world & what I want my kids & grandkids to see when they look at me.

    “Marriage means a Man and a Woman, but Love is too important to use as a weapon, so I think civil unions may have a place in our society.”

    How this fits into the Constitution of Florida, I have no idea. Does it mean I support this amendment?

    It disgusts me that the things we vote on are written so the average tax-paying Joe & Jo can’t understand what they mean without an interpreter fluent in LegalBullshit. But thank heaven I have the internet, where I can find regular folks like you to help me interpret so I can make an informed decision.

    Sorry for the blather – got my mind on a hundred things today, I seem to be in a constant state of confusion this morning. And thanks, I appreciate all your help.

  4. 4

    swampie said,

    Yeah, me too. Actually, I’m more of a libertarian.

    Since doing volunteer and paid work with children, I’ve gotten WAY more conservative on family life. The way children’s lives are being wrecked by very selfish people isn’t funny.

  5. 5

    kc said,

    I fit the libertarian mold quite nicely myself…except for the war on terror, I guess. Isolation (aka minding our own business) may have been preferred at some point in the past, but the planet is much too connected for that anymore. In my opinion.

    Like you, having seen the wreckage some children survive – or don’t – makes me much more traditional when it comes to what’s best for them.

    So, back to the amendment…I don’t mind the first part, but not so crazy about the second part. Vote for, & hope we can work out the domestic partnerships & civil unions later?

    Sheesh…

  6. 6

    swampie said,

    Yeah. That’s the only thing I can think of.

    Isolation only works if terrorists are willing to leave us alone. As we’ve seen demonstrated repeatedly, they aren’t.

  7. 7

    Aunt Sherman said,

    # 1. Amendment 1 Repeal of Alien Land Law
    With the current finnancal crisis, I don’t think it’s a good time to remove this. Vote NO

    # 2. Amendment 2 Gay Marriage Ban
    I hope approval of this Amendment #2 doesn’t just make a whole bunch a lawyers rich…But Marrage should be between a union between a man and a woman. There will be no prodgey of any same sex union that will ever have to fight and die defending their country, so to afford them the same rights, would be a unfair. It would also be a burden on regular people with regular jobs health care plans. Vote NO

    # 3. Amendment 3 Hurricane and Energy Tax Break
    Sounds good to me, could even create some jobs. Vote YES

    # 4 Amendment 4 Conservation Land Tax Break
    I think it’s a way for these rich land delelopers whom had to create and set aside Mitigation lands to be able to build large housing developments that are now vacant & foreclosed, another tax break. forget it. Vote NO

    # 6. Amendment 6 Working Waterfront Tax Break
    A very good law. A tax based on what tax assessors think would be the “highest and best use” of the property. Um, the land owner gets to decide this. Who dreamt that up? it should include all private property. Vote Yes

    # 8. Amendment 8 New Sales Tax for Community College Districts

    Most people in Florida (retirees) already paid to put their children thru college. There are plenty of scholarships and other programs to help students out. Vote NO

  8. 8

    dancy said,

    Good job! #2 is traditional, but needed. Laws will not deem unions or partnerships the same as marriage so, gays will not be hurt. They just can’t use the “M” word.

  9. 9

    jj said,

    amendment 1: YES. -its an old ww2 anti aisian/anti japaneese alien land law that is, and has been un-enforcable. not to mention racist. florida is the only state in the union with such a law still on its books.

    amendment 2: NO. -im all for “marriage” being defined as 1 man, 1 woman. but this amandment goes too far in banning civil unions as well, and possibly disolving existing civil unions in counties that allready allow them. im straight. but my brother is gay. and i wouldnt want to impose any more hardship on his life by making it illeagal to have a domestic partnership. -call it what you will, but dont call it marriage.

    amendment 3: YES. -a tax break to get people to do the right thing. fortify their homes. itll cost less than rows of Formaldehyde saturated FEMA trailers.

    amendment 4: YES. im a closet enviromentalist at heart, so anything to get back to nature is ok by me. just because we have land land land, doesnt mean we should develop it for our own greedy needs. animals need a place to live too, and it enriches all our lives in the long run. if a landowner has an incentive to leave his land alone, and not build up another 711 or a MacDonalds, then id rather see swampland.

    amendment 6: YES. tax the land for what its actually being used for. seems like a no-brainer.

    amendment 8: YES. if a community wants to tax themselves for the inner-enrichment of their own community, then why not? they can tax themselves for whatever they want.

  10. 10

    FLygRpblcn said,

    #1-no, I think most countries should limit foreign ownership of land, though this does seems outdated
    and strict

    #2-no

    I am a conservative when it comes to social issues, but Amendment 2 has no place in our constitution. I’ll be voting NO on Amendment 2. Florida already has a gay marriage ban on the books. Amendment 2 also outlaws domestic partnership and civil unions. I am straight, but I am friends with several gay couples, and one elderly couple who have a domestic partnership because they did not want to remarry. This law would repeal rights for them. I don’t understand the logic of some people who call themselves “traditionalists” or conservative and who don’t want domestic partnerships: most conservatives don’t agree with the lifestyle of gay couples, but allowing them domestic partnerships bring them closer to the lifestyle that we respect instead of keeping them out. By passing this legislation you keep gay couples acting differently instead of more conservative, it makes no sense and it is hypocritical.

    Amendment 3-yes

    Amendment 4-yes

    Amendment 6-yes, lets enable business owners of our working waterfronts to stay in business with current usage

    Amendment 8-yes, imposes no new taxes and puts the option to a vote

  11. 11

    kc said,

    I don’t even know if this response will show up for you to read, Swampie, but I just read something about Amendment 4 that may sway my vote. That is, that developers could put land in “preservation” for a period of time (not enough cash or credit at the time to do the development, crappy market, what have you) & it can be removed from “preservation,” & begin making profit on something we, the taxpayers, have continued paying for. Cuz we have to pay OUR property taxes…

    I’m trying to decide if this is just a pissy little rant at Corporate Evil or if it’s a viable point for me to consider. Thanks for helping & ‘listening.’

  12. 12

    swampie said,

    Well, I’ve got some land greenbelted. It’s the only way we can afford to use it for agricultural pursuits and not sell it to somebody that wants to build on it.

    I look at the conservation easements in much the same way. Anything that can help keep Florida from being turned completely into a parking lot is okay with me.

  13. 13

    Mary said,

    Wow what a mess we have here…is all I can say…I thought this site might help me…I have been researching the amendments…so confusing for us average ones …

  14. 14

    Remadi said,

    Dancy said: “Good job! #2 is traditional, but needed. Laws will not deem unions or partnerships the same as marriage so, gays will not be hurt. They just can’t use the “M” word.”

    This is not just about same-sex marriage. It’s about a person’s right to choose a secular partnership other than ‘marriage’ and still receive secular benefits. Civil unions and domestic partnerships will be in danger with the passage of this amendment.

    Don’t agree? Our country’s laws and court systems rely heavily on precedents. These precedents have already been made in places like Michigan where a similar amendment was passed which was followed by a lawsuit which resulted in dissolving domestic partnership registries in the state and was upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court. To say that no one will be affected by this amendment is just being ignorant.

    Are you going to deny people heterosexuals as well as homosexuals from being able to do something as simple, but as important, as being able to visit and stay with their partners at the hospital? People use health insurance as the main example of what can be taken away, but it’s not just services like insurance which can be affected. (And even if you have your own insurance, you or your partner have never used the other’s insurance as a secondary insurance? It was because of this that my father was able to afford back surgery he needed. Sometimes one person’s health insurance isn’t enough in these times of rising health costs.)

    Florida already has four laws, yes, you read that right, *four* laws which ban same-sex marriage. An amendment with this wording does not add to anything, but has the real potential to hurt many.

    Aunt Sharon said: “There will be no prodgey of any same sex union that will ever have to fight and die defending their country, so to afford them the same rights, would be a unfair. It would also be a burden on regular people with regular jobs health care plans.”

    So, should couples who are legally married, consisting of one man and one woman, who can’t have children, for whatever reason, be stripped of their rights also, since they will never have children who will have to fight and die defending our country? Should married couples who choose not to have children also be stripped of their rights?

    This is a new time where people are getting in vitro fertilization and surrogate mothers to have babies. Same sex unions may not have children with DNA from both parents, but there are couples with children from one parent and couples with one or both partners fighting and possibly dying defending our country. To have that a basis for withholding rights is ignorant and disrespectful to those who do serve.

  15. 15

    Steve said,

    I am mixed on amendment 6. I do not mind taxing those marinas with all the million dollar boats parked in them but at the same time the fishermen trying to make a living can use any break they can get.

  16. 16

    swampie said,

    Yeah, there are a few small harbors around here where what’s left of the fishing fleet is located. Most of the other beachfront property has turned from waterfront shacks/beach houses to multi-million dollar condos.

  17. 17

    shannon said,

    Aunt Sherman, seriously, please take your grammatically incorrect, bigoted, misspelled post back to whatever northern or “fly over” state you came from. Some of us are natives and we choose not to be ignorant to the growth of global society nor do we care for our ELDERS making decisions that affect the education and well being of OUR children. If you don’t like it, go back where you came from.

    As it happens, I currently live in Europe for employment and I am quite disheartened to read your opinions, particularly pertaining to MY home where I’ve lived all but 10 months of my 38 years. Seriously!!

    FLygRpblcn, I think it is tremendous that dems and reps can think independently and arrive at the same or similar conclusions. It’s a testament to our society becoming enlightened and addressing our issues, not our “party”.

    Remadi, well said!

    Swampie, thanks for the help…my eyes are practically bleeding from trying to understand this ballot and since I don’t have the benefit of U.S. tv commercials….lol….. seriously, thanks for clarifying.

  18. 18

    swampie said,

    You’re better off not having the television commercials in which you are assured that the people that are supporting one view or another are evil lying scalawags.

    Of course, they may have a point….

  19. 19

    The Halster said,

    Thanx for this website Swampie. Trying to translate the ‘legalese’ in the sample ballot was making my head hurt. I am a native Floridian from a long line of native Floridians. I hate to see the way Florida is being destroyed by developers and ‘outsiders’ trying to turn Florida into something that it isn’t. These are important issues that require serious thought, discussion, and consideration before casting a vote. Not just the local votes, but all of them. Your website is a great tool.
    Wed Nov 5th will be a day long remembered. Will it be the day that the news media announces the end of America, or will it be a day to rejoice?

  20. 20

    swampie said,

    I hope it is a day to rejoice, but there are a lot of newcomers here. If A/C gets to expensive, maybe they’ll move back home.

  21. 21

    kc said,

    I’m not Native, I’m a Montana transplant married to an Indiana transplant…but Lovely Daughter, son-in-law & granddaughter are all First Generation Natives, so I’ve contributed the most precious things I can think of to this state. And I agree with Halster, Swampie – I let my ol man read your take on the amendments & he’s got his mind made up thanks to you. Don’t know if it’s the same as you’d vote, but at least he’s informed! So thanks from us, too. Ya do good work.

  22. 22

    swampie said,

    Heh. Mostly I was just trying to figure ‘em out myself. I suspect I voted no more often than most of the folks that read it, just because there were a lot of things that were good ideas but I didn’t think warranted a constitutional amendment.


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