From the League of Women Voters
Editor’s Note: This is a 12-day series that looks at each amenement the League of Women Voters analyzed and made a recommendation. Today their analysis and recommendation is on Amendment 1
Our board examined every amendment that voters will decide on and determined positions on each. We weighed already established League positions heavily in our decisions.
The Supreme Court has removed Amendment 8 from the November 2018 Ballot, upholding the decision by a lower court that Amendment 8 misled voters by not clearly stating its true purpose and never mentioning charter schools by name. The Court approved three other appealed amendments, 6, 10 and 13. They will stay on the ballot.
Twelve proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution remain on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot, 8 more than appeared on the 2016 ballot.
However, voters face more questions than is apparent.
That’s because Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which convenes every 20 years, is allowed by law to bundle more than one issue into each question. This practice, also known as “logrolling,” is prohibited when amendments are placed on the ballot by citizen initiative or by the Florida Legislature. Those amendments must contain just one distinct question. To learn more about the 2017/18 CRC, click here.
In 1978, the first CRC proposed eight amendments, at least half of which had multiple questions. All were defeated by voters. Twenty years later, in 1998, the CRC proposed nine amendments, all of which had multiple questions. All but one passed.
An example of the CRC’s issue bundling in 2018 is Amendment 9, which asks voters to decide whether to ban offshore oil drilling, and whether to ban e-cigarettes at workplaces. Like the CRC’s other bundled amendments, voters cannot cast separate votes on drilling and vaping. These are all-or-nothing propositions.
Of the 12 amendments on this year’s ballot, eight were proposed by the CRC, three by the Florida Legislature and two by citizen initiative. To pass, each of them must receive at least 60 percent approval by voters. This is the first time that constitutional amendments proposed by a CRC have faced the 60-percent hurdle, which voters approved in 2006. Before then, amendments just needed a simple majority for approval. Unless otherwise indicated, changes to the Constitution take effect on Jan. 8, 2019.
Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption
Source: Florida Legislature
Grants an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for homes valued over $125,000. Owners of homes worth more than $100,000 would also receive an increase in their exemption.
Oppose. The League has a position that “no tax sources or revenue should be specified, limited, exempted, or prohibited in the Constitution.”
Full summary: This proposed amendment was approved during the 2017 legislative session and scheduled to appear on the 2018 ballot. Amendment 1 would increase the state’s homestead exemption by another $25,000 (a legislative analysis of the proposal is here). A little background: Florida’s homestead exemption, originally passed to help people after the Great Depression, allows homeowners to reduce their tax bills by shaving some of the value off the assessment of their primary residence.
For many years the exemption stood at $25,000, which meant if the property appraiser said your home was worth $125,000, you could deduct $25,000 off that value. That meant a smaller tax bill paid to local governments. In 2008, voters amended the state Constitution to exempt another $25,000 for homes valued at more than $50,000.
The amendment on this year’s ballot would add another $25,000 exemption, this one applying to the value of a home between $100,000 and $125,000. Those with homes valued at 125,000 and more would receive the full $25,000 exemption other than school taxes. Those homes valued between $100,000 and $125,000 would receive a pro-rated benefit:
$10,000 of home value would be exempt from property taxes other than school taxes for homes valued at $110,000.
$15,000 of home value would be exempt from property taxes other than school taxes for homes valued at $115,000.
Homes valued at $100,000 or less would be unaffected.
It’s a little confusing, but the bottom line is this: If voters approve the additional $25,000 exemption in this amendment, that will increase to $75,000 the total amount a homeowner can deduct for a home valued at $125,000 or more. This newest exemption, if passed, would not reduce the taxes homeowners pay to local school districts. The new exemption would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
A YES vote on Amendment 1 would:
Allow homeowners to deduct up to another $25,000 from the taxable value of a home worth more than $100,000, starting on Jan. 1, 2019.
Exclude local school taxes from the new exemption.
Cost Florida’s cities, counties and other taxing authorities an estimated $687.5 million annually, starting in 2019, according to the Florida Association of Counties.
Likely result in cuts to services or higher local rates to make up for the revenue losses, or possibly both.