Do We Really Need All These Amendments To Florida’s Constitution ?

Too Many Amendments

As part of the 2018 midterm elections, Floridians will be asked to vote on thirteen amendments to the state’s constitution. Thirteen seems a lot, but it is understandable as many of them are proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission, a state commission that meets every 20 years to recommend changes, and, Yes, this is the year when they met, hence the substantial number of changes.

A copy of the amendments can be obtained from the state (click HERE), and I encourage voters to become familiar with them prior to November 6th.

The purpose of a constitution is to define the basic mechanisms of the government. For example, the U.S. Constitution defines the duties and responsibilities of the three branches of government, including voting and how to enact changes. The Bill of Rights is a separate document related to the Constitution detailing our rights. In Florida though, the state constitution is a bloated document where everything is thrown into, thereby requiring it to be updated frequently. Many of the Amendments here should be placed in a separate document or simply handled by the state assembly.

I endeavored to find out how the Democrats and Republicans feel about each issue. This was difficult as I could find no party specific recommendations. Along the way though, I discovered how many of the party officials felt and deduced their answer. Naturally, the two parties were black and white on every issue (no surprise there). The one group who was unafraid to state their position was the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Consequently, I have included their response herein.

With this said, here are the thirteen amendments, along with their sponsors and pertinent comments:

NO. 1 – BALLOT TITLE: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, ARTICLE VII, SECTION 6, ARTICLE XII, SECTION 37
Sponsor: The Florida Legislature/House (HJR7105)

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies. The amendment shall take effect January 1, 2019.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote NO, Republicans YES, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is Neutral. Conceptually, the legislation gives homeowners a tax reduction, and by doing so will result in less money for municipalities, counties and special districts.

NO. 2 – BALLOT TITLE: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, ARTICLE XII, SECTION 27
Sponsor: The Florida Legislature/House (CS/HJR 21)

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on specified nonhomestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect January 1, 2019.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote NO, Republicans YES, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is a YES.

NO. 3 – BALLOT TITLE: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, ARTICLE X, SECTION 29
Sponsor: Voters In Charge

BALLOT SUMMARY:
This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote YES, Republicans NO, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is a YES. If passed, 60% of Florida voters will be needed to regulate it in the future. Is this something that really belongs in our constitution?

NO. 4 – BALLOT TITLE: Voting Restoration Amendment
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, ARTICLE VI, SECTION 4
Sponsor: Floridians for a Fair Democracy, Inc.

BALLOT SUMMARY:
This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote YES, Republicans NO, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is Neutral.

NO. 5 – BALLOT TITLE: Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, ARTICLE VII, SECTION 19
Sponsor: The Florida Legislature/House (HJR7001)

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a twothirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote NO, Republicans YES, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is a YES. A YES vote means tax increases require a 2/3 approval in both the state senate and house; a NO vote means a simple majority is needed for passage.

NO. 6 – BALLOT TITLE: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION, ARTICLE I, SECTION 16, ARTICLE V, SECTIONS 8 AND 21, ARTICLE XII, NEW SECTION
Sponsor: Constitution Revision Commission

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote NO, Republicans YES, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is Neutral.

NO. 7 – BALLOT TITLE: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION, ARTICLE IX, SECTIONS 7 AND 8, ARTICLE X, NEW SECTION
Sponsor: Constitution Revision Commission

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Grants mandatory payment of death benefits and waiver of certain educational expenses to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military members who die performing official duties. Requires supermajority votes by university trustees and state university system board of governors to raise or impose all legislatively authorized fees if law requires approval by those bodies. Establishes existing state college system as constitutional entity; provides governance structure.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote NO, Republicans YES, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is Neutral.

NO. 8 – BALLOT TITLE: School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION, ARTICLE IX, SECTION 4, NEW SECTION, ARTICLE XII, NEW SECTION
Sponsor: Constitution Revision Commission

COMMENT:
THIS AMENDMENT HAS BEEN STRUCK DOWN BY THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT. As such, it will not be included on the November 6th ballot.

NO. 9 – BALLOT TITLE: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION, ARTICLE II, SECTION 7, ARTICLE X, SECTION 20
Sponsor: Constitution Revision Commission

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Prohibits drilling for the exploration or extraction of oil and natural gas beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Adds use of vapor-generating electronic devices to current prohibition of tobacco smoking in enclosed indoor workplaces with exceptions; permits more restrictive local vapor ordinances.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote YES, Republicans NO, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is a NO. It is a mystery why a bill concerned with offshore drilling includes a section on e-smoking devices.

NO. 10 – BALLOT TITLE: State and Local Government Structure and Operation
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION, ARTICLE III, SECTION 3, ARTICLE IV, SECTIONS 4 AND 11, ARTICLE VIII, SECTIONS 1 AND 6
Sponsor: Constitution Revision Commission

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even- numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote NO, Republicans YES, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is Neutral.

NO. 11 – BALLOT TITLE: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION, ARTICLE I, SECTION 2, ARTICLE X, SECTIONS 9 AND 19
Sponsor: Constitution Revision Commission

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Removes discriminatory language related to real property rights. Removes obsolete language repealed by voters. Deletes provision that amendment of a criminal statute will not affect prosecution or penalties for a crime committed before the amendment; retains current provision allowing prosecution of a crime committed before the repeal of a criminal statute.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote NO, Republicans YES, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is a YES.

NO. 12 – BALLOT TITLE: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION, ARTICLE II, SECTION 8, ARTICLE V, SECTION 13, ARTICLE XII, NEW SECTION
Sponsor: Constitution Revision Commission

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote NO, Republicans YES, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is a NO.

NO. 13 – BALLOT TITLE: Ends Dog Racing
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION, ARTICLE X, NEW SECTION, ARTICLE XII, NEW SECTION
Sponsor: Constitution Revision Commission

BALLOT SUMMARY:
Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.

COMMENT:
Democrats will likely vote YES, Republicans NO, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is a NO.Again, is this something that really belongs in our constitution? And what is next, elimination of horse racing?

As you can see, there isn’t anything here to change the basic mechanisms of our government, yet people find it necessary to put everything but the kitchen sink in there.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com

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Tim Bryce is a freelance writer and management consultant located in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. As an avid writer and speaker, Tim discusses everything from business and management, to politics and morality, to systems and technology, and our ever changing world. His columns are educational and entertaining, discussing the things we tend to take for granted or overlook in our walk through life. He has published over a thousand such articles. In addition to his columns, Tim's audio segments are syndicated on the radio and in podcasts. He is also a former correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. As a management consultant, Tim specializes in systems and technology. He has traveled extensively around the world training and supporting a variety of companies of all sizes and shapes, from the boardroom to the trenches. Tim has authored several books on a variety of computer and management related subjects including "The IRM Revolution: Blueprint for the 21st Century" which was on the Top Ten list in Japan, and penned the "PRIDE" Methodologies for IRM." More recently, he published a four volume set entitled, "Bryce’s Uncommon Sense Series." Tim graduated from Ohio University in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications. His blog can be found at: timbryce.com E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @timbryce