On the Ballot


Mail ballots have started arriving on doorsteps. Two legal pages, front and back. In addition to all the names covering one page for a variety of positions at all levels of government, there are also twelve proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution on the ballot.

As a firm believer in community involvement, I encourage you to look over your sample ballot before casting your votes this midterm election. Below, I have provided as unbiased as possible a short description for each amendment. Please note that, despite most amendments having several parts, you vote on each amendment as a package, not by item.

While this hopefully will ease your research, please take a moment to review the amendments for yourself before filling in the bubble as well as consider the implications of each.

To access your sample ballot:
Seminole County: https://www.voteseminole.org/sample-ballot
Orange County: https://ocfelections.com/ballot_new.aspx

Amendment 1: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption

On the ballot: 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by legislators to increase the amount of a home’s value that is exempted from property taxes from $100,000 to $125,000. This does not include school district taxes.

Amendment 2: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments

On the ballot: 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by legislators to continue indefinitely the cap on non-homestead parcel assessment increases at 10%. This does not include school district taxes.

Amendment 3: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida

On the ballot: 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. The amendment’s impact on state and local government revenues and costs, if any, cannot be determined at this time because of its unknown effect on gambling operations that have not been approved by voters through a constitutional amendment proposed by a citizens’ initiative petition process.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative to require approval of any new casino gambling through a citizen initiative constitutional amendment. This would effectively bar state legislature from making gambling decisions without voter consent.

Amendment 4:Voting Restoration Amendment

On the ballot: 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. The precise effect of this amendment on state and local government costs cannot be determined, but the operation of current voter registration laws, combined with an increased number of felons registering to vote, will produce higher overall costs relative to the processes in place today. The impact, if any, on state and local government revenues cannot be determined. The fiscal impact of any future legislation that implements a different process cannot be reasonably determined.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot through citizen initiative to restore the right to vote to felons upon completion of their sentences (including parole or probation), except those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

Amendment 5: Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees

On the ballot: Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by legislators to require a two-thirds from each legislative house to approve any new or increased taxes or fees. This does not include fees or taxes imposed by counties, municipalities, school boards, or special districts.

Amendment 6: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges

On the ballot: 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by commission referral to vastly expand victims’ rights within criminal and juvenile justice processes primarily by forcing court officials to interpret laws and rules on a case-by-case basis rather than rely on previous interpretations by government agencies. This also raises the mandatory judges’ retirement from 70 to 75 .

Amendment 7: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities

On the ballot: 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by commission referral and has three major parts. The first is to mandate the payment of death benefits and waive certain educational expenses to survivors of first responders and military members who die in the line of duty. The second is to require a supermajority by university trustees before imposing new or increased existing student fees. The third is to include the State College System guidelines in the state’s Constitution.

Amendment 9: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces

On the ballot: 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by commission referral and has two major parts. The first is to prohibit drilling, either for exploration or extraction, of oil or natural gas within state waters. This would not limit the transportation of materials produced outside state waters. The second is to prohibit the use of “any product that employs an electronic, a chemical, or a mechanical means capable of producing vapor or aerosol from a nicotine product or any other substance” in enclosed indoor workspaces.

Amendment 10: State and Local Government Structure and Operation

On the ballot: 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by commission referral to amend the Florida Constitution where it pertains to sub-state governments in four major parts. The first is legislatures must maintain a department of veterans’ affairs. The second mandates the election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerts of the court. The third changes the session commencement to even years and removes legislature’s ability to change this date. The fourth is the creation of the office of domestic security and counterterrorism within law enforcement agencies.

Amendment 11: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes

On the ballot: 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by commission referral to repeal the state’s ability to block non-citizens from buying, owning, and selling property. It also deletes a provision in Article X because it has been found obsolete.

Amendment 12: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

On the ballot: 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.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by commission referral to add restrictions on lobbying and expands the ethics rules for elected officials and government employees by lengthening the time before lobbying the state government from 2 to 6 years.

Amendment 13: Ends Dog Racing

On the ballot: Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.
My interpretation: This amendment was placed on the ballot by commission referral to phase out dog racing in the state of florida by Dec 31, 2020. It banns wagering on any type of dog racing while still allowing other forms of gambling offered by dog tracks.

One comment on “On the Ballot

  1. October 30, 2018 Susan Atherton

    Thank you.

    Reply

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