Summaries of Bradenton Herald's amendment positions

October 14, 2012 

Florida voters face the difficult test of understanding sometimes vague and complicated language in the 11 constitutional amendments on the November ballot -- all composed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

While citizen-sponsored initiatives are limited to 75 words on the ballot, the Legislature exempted itself from any brevity burden. Thus, voters will be staring down some lengthy verbiage this year.

Amendments must pass with a minimum of 60 percent approval for adoption.

Here are capsules of the Herald Editorial Board's recommendations on these amendments, complete with links to our full editorials.

Amendment 1 -- No

A purely political gesture, this measure attempts to void implementation of the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. But this conflicts with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and will almost surely be ruled unconstitutional.

With the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the individual mandate, this amendment will have no practical impact. It deserves to fail.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 2 -- Yes

Florida already extends a homestead exemption to disabled combat veterans who were Florida residents upon entering the military. Amendment 2 would expand that eligibility for the property tax discount to all disabled combat veterans.

This is such a small price to pay to reward those who served our country and suffered personally as a result. Nothing can repay such sacrifice. This merits a yes vote.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 3 -- No

Here we have the opportunity to shackle government with a convoluted formula that limits the amount of revenue collected by the state in the form of taxes, fees and fines.

Colorado voters approved similar tight restrictions to government revenue in 1992, but soon witnessed the devastating impact through deep cuts in public services and higher costs of issuing bonds.

Three years after passage, Coloradans suspended the law. That terrible experience proved valuable only because since then more than 20 state legislatures spurned similar measures.

This ill-advised measure should be rejected.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 4 -- No

This could be viewed two ways -- as an economic stimulus for developers, homebuilders and the entire real estate industry, or a revenue catastrophe for already cash-poor counties and municipalities that would force further cutbacks in government services.

With signs that Florida's housing market is on the mend, the real estate industry does not need to be stimulated.

Under the amendment, first-time homebuyers would only pay property taxes on about 50 percent of the home's taxable value the first year with their liability gradually rising until reaching 100 percent by the sixth year.

Snowbirds and other out-of-state residents who own homes here would be granted the homestead exemption.

Commercial properties owners would also benefit. The annual increase in taxable value on nonhomestead properties would be capped at 5 percent, down from 10 percent today.

This would shift more of the tax burden onto year-round, home-owning residents. It deserves to be rejected.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 5 -- No

State governments operate like their federal counterpart, with the executive, legislative and judicial branches set up as checks and balances so one branch does not overreach its constitutional authority. This amendment would upset that balance of power, tilting it toward the Legislature, and threatens the Florida Supreme Court's independence and impartiality.

This so-called "judicial reform" amendment would hand the Senate confirmation powers over the governor's appointments to the high court, give the Legislature the power to repeal court rules by a simple majority instead of the two-thirds vote currently required and limit the re-adoption of repealed court stipulations.

This is an abrogation of the separation of powers and should be rejected.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 6 -- No

Federal law already prohibits the expenditure of tax dollars for abortions, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest and threats to a mother's life. Florida law also bans public money to pay for abortions.

But the measure also exempts abortions from the state constitution's privacy clause. That clears the main roadblock to a parental consent law and opens the door to more restrictive abortion laws. A woman's right to make her own health decisions could be lost under this amendment. We recommend a no vote.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 8 -- No

This measure would repeal Florida's 126-year-old "no aid" constitutional provision that bans public funding of religious institutions and organizations, a provision stronger even than the one in the U.S. Constitution. Proponents promote the foggy notion that the amendment is designed to support the "delivery of non-sectarian social services by religious groups."

But the real goal is future school voucher programs. The proposal would allow lawmakers to pass legislation permitting parents to send their children to religiously affiliated private schools at taxpayer expense, thus diverting money from public schools.

This amendment would further drain resources away from public schools and harm education.

Taxpayers should not be forced to support religious institutions they find objectionable for whatever reason. The separation of church and state must be maintained. This amendment deserves to be rejected.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 9 -- Yes

This measure exempts the surviving spouses of military personnel and first responders killed in the line of duty from paying property taxes on their homes.

Like Amendment 2, this should be seen as a tribute to the families of the men and women who serve to protect us only to suffer the ultimate loss. We recommend a yes vote.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 10 -- Yes

This measure holds the potential to stimulate job growth by reducing the tax burden on small businesses. The amendment doubles the current $25,000 exemption on the tangible personal property tax, which covers machinery, computers and other equipment but only for companies with less than $50,000 in taxable property.

Significantly, the proposal also allows counties and municipalities the flexibility to grant additional tax relief in order to attract business investment. We support this amendment.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 11 -- Yes

This proposal passed both the House and Senate on unanimous votes -- for good reason. The amendment authorizes cities and counties to grant low-income seniors total homestead property tax relief.

Homeowners 65 and older who have maintained residency in that home for at least 25 years and who have a household income below $27,030 would be eligible. The home cannot have a just market value exceeding $250,000.

With the cost of living ever rising and many senior incomes failing to keep pace, this humane measure could be a life preserver to many. We recommend a yes vote.

Read the full editorial here:

Amendment 12 -- No

Currently, Florida State University has no opportunity to seat a student representative on the Board of Governors of the State University System. But that's only because FSU is not a member of the Florida Student Association, whose president automatically become the representative to the Board of Governors. FSU should simply join the organization.

The measure replaces the FSA student president with the chair of the council of state university student body presidents as the student member of the Board of Governors. It also requires that the Board of Governors organize the council of state university student body presidents.

What that means is the control of the student representative shifts away from universities and students to the governors. This is an unacceptable political switch dressed up as a solution to a real problem. This, too, should be rejected.

Read the full editorial here:

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