With 13 proposed amendments on the Florida ballot this election cycle, you’re bound to think you’re looking at a prescription drug pamphlet, as opposed to deciding the future of our State. Add to that the least approachable legalese ever and side effects may include confusion and apathy (possibly nausea and diarrhea).
Here at Void, we vote. And while we have no interest in swaying your vote in any direction, we do want to help you make sense of this year’s ballot and the aforementioned proposed amendments. We’ll do so by breaking down what the amendments are actually saying (at least, to the best of our ability).
NOTE 1: Some amendments on this year’s ballot are limited to a single item, while others are “bundled”, meaning that when bubbling in your answer, you’ll occasionally be voting for two or more changes that may have little or nothing to do with each other. This is where it gets tricky, as a voter may be in favor one part of the amendment, but against the second part of the amendment. Lots of times this is done to try to push unpopular items through on the back of popular items. What is a voter to do?
The lengthy ballot means that we are going to look at the first six here and the remaining seven in the next post.
NOTE 2: This is our layman’s term interpretation, and in addition to reading this we definitely encourage you to do your own homework to make the most informed decision possible. Ballotpedia is a non-partisan resource, as well as a proverbial wormhole of information. If you’re aim is to be a policy wonk, or impress your friends with a spoken-word performance of the exact verbiage for each ballot initiative, go here.
Otherwise, take a deep breath, settle in, it’s ALL going to be OK. Trust us. “Here’s part I of our WTF are these ballot initiatives, explained.”
Amendment No. 1 – Increase Homestead Property Tax Exemption
First off, a homestead property is a property that is your primary residence–the house or apartment that you own AND live in. Property tax is collected by the local tax collector and divided among the state government, local government and schools. Currently, the state of Florida decreases the taxable value of your primary residence by as much as $50,000. This proposed amendment decreases the taxable value of your primary residence by as much as $75,000.
Here’s an (not so accurate, but usable) example to drive this home. Let’s say the county decides your home is worth $100,000. Under the current Homestead Exemption, you only pay tax on $50,000 of that homes value. If this amendment passes, you will only pay tax on $25,000. The result will be a decrease in the amount of tax local governments collect from each home.
A Yes vote means: You pay less tax and can use the savings to pay for that tricked out Toyota Tundra that you will need to navigate the pothole-riddled streets.
A No vote means: Nothing changes and you keep paying the tax you’ve been paying all along.
Amendment No. 2 – Limitation on Property Tax Assessment
Forget the homestead thing. This amendment applies to any property that is not a person’s primary residence. Currently there is temporary 10% cap on non-homestead property–meaning that as long as a property does not change hands, it’s taxable value cannot increase by more than 10% from one year to the next. The temporary cap was approved by voters way back in 2009, partly as a stimulating response to the Great Recession. This proposed amendment makes that cap permanent.
A Yes vote means: No change for your rental properties and vacation homes. Enjoy the life of leisure, but be sure to post your luxurious lifestyle on Instagram so we can fawn and hate-watch!
A No vote means: You open up the possibility to increased taxable values. But, hey, that pothole may finally be fixed!
Amendment No. 3 – Voter Control of Gambling in Florida
Roll the dice, baby! Advocates of gambling have been proposing the benefits of casino revenues to fund public education to ages. Lest we forget the Florida Lottery. This one is all about who gets to decide whether or not casinos can be built OUTSIDE of Native-America tribes. It’s either the voters or the legislators that will get the exclusive right to approve casinos in Florida. So this is a vote on an opportunity to vote.
A Yes vote means: Only Florida voters can decide if the state bets it all on red.
A No vote means: Your local and state legislators can pull the slot machine lever without needing your input. Cha-ching!
Amendment No. 4 – Voter Restoration Amendment
Basically says that once a person has done their time for their crime, they can have their voting rights restored. Does not apply to felons convicted of murder or felony sexual assault. By some estimates, this will affect close to 1.5 million Floridians currently denied the right to vote due to prior felony convictions.
A Yes vote means: Your weed-dealing buddy who got busted with all that weight, but has since repaid his debt to society, will have his vote counted again.
A No vote means: Screw that guy! He chose his path in life when he delivered me that sticky-icky.
Amendment No. 5 – Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees
Requires that any future vote for an increase in taxes and fees have 2/3 majority support in the Legislature. Currently, a simple majority of 51% is required, but if this passes, 66% will have to agree to any fiscal decision about taxes and fees.
A Yes vote means: Fiscal gridlock!
A No vote means: Leave things as they currently stand.
Amendment No. 6 – Rights of Crime Victims; Judges
Here begins the bundling:
First part introduces an expansion the legal rights of crime victims and the payment of restitution by criminal offenders, (2) restrict the early release of inmates, and (3) change the procedures for granting and revoking parole.
The next part prohibits judges from allowing administrative government agencies from interpreting the law. OK, this one is complicated. Like, really complicated. My Civics review is that the Judicial Branch interprets the law which the Legislative Branch legislates and the Executive Branch executes. And, um…yeah.
Lastly, it raises the retirement age of judges from 70 to 75.
A Yes vote means: ???
A No vote means: You want legislators to go back to their desks and not come back until they present something that makes sense, dammit.
OK, let’s take a break shall we?
Take some to digest and think about how each of these will affect your life. Ask questions and talk to people share similar views, as well as those who may not. Then join us for the next installment of Void Votes, WTF are these ballot initiatives, explained (Part II). Jump to Part II, here.