8 constitutional amendments fail
By Elaine Silvestrini | Tribune StaffFlorida voters rejected eight of 11 proposed constitutional amendments Tuesday, while three measures providing property tax relief for veterans, the spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty, and low-income seniors appeared headed for approval.
Published: November 7, 2012
Published: November 7, 2012
Handing defeats to the state's Republican Legislature, the state's voters failed to approve proposed amendments on issues ranging from abortion funding and notification restrictions, to state funding of religious institutions, to Supreme Court changes, and a symbolic amendment against the federal health care reform law.
The Legislature's proposed 11 constitutional amendments were the most to appear on the state's ballot since 1998, according to Florida TaxWatch.
In order to become part of the state Constitution, an amendment must receive at least 60 percent of the vote, but the vast majority of proposed amendments failed to garner even 50 percent.
Voters faced a lengthy ballot — one amendment alone was 640 words — and lots of homework to decipher the proposed amendments.
Although groups of various stripes weighed in for and against different amendments, the League of Women Voters of Florida urged Floridians to reject all 11 proposed constitutional changes.
According to TaxWatch, with the exception of 1998, when the state Constitutional Revision Commission proposed 9 amendments, bringing the total to 13, there have not been more amendments proposed since at least 1978.
In addition to the ponderous language of some of the proposals, the League of Women Voters of Florida had criticized what it called misleading titles.
For example, Amendment 6 — "Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights" — contains a provision that would specifically remove abortion from Floridians' constitutional right to privacy. That would open the door for state legislation restricting or banning abortion.
Amendment 8, titled "Religious Freedom," deletes a constitutional prohibition against using public money in aid of any church, sect or religious denomination.
With 95 percent of the state's votes counted, here are the amendments and their votes for and against:
1. Health care: This amendment would prohibit laws or rules from compelling anyone or an employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage; 48.4% for and 51.6% against.
2. Homestead exemption for disabled veterans: This amendment would expand the property discount on homesteads to combat-injured veterans who were not Florida residents at the time of their injury; 62.88% for and 37.12% against.
3. Government revenue limit: Under this amendment, state revenue collected in excess of the revenue limitation would be added to the budget stabilization fund until the fund reaches its maximum balance. Then, the money would be used for public schools by reducing the financial effort required from districts for participation in a state education finance program; 42.11% for and 57.89% against.
4. Property tax and values: This amendment specifies that assessed value of homestead property would not increase if the market value is less than it was the preceding Jan. 1. The amendment would also reduce from 10 percent to 5 percent the limitation on annual changes in assessments of nonhomestead real property; 42.76% for and 57.24% against.
5. State court oversight: This amendment would let the Legislature repeal rules on how the judiciary operates with a simple majority instead of a two-thirds majority. This amendment also would require Senate confirmation of a governor's nominee for Supreme Court justice; 36.69% for and 63.31% against.
6. Public funding of abortions: This amendment would deny public funds for any abortion or for health coverage that includes the procedure. The prohibition would not apply to any coverage required by federal law; 44.77% for and 55.23% against.
8. Religious freedom: This amendment would delete the prohibition against using state revenue directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution; 44.27% for and 55.73% against.
9. Tax relief for a surviving spouse: The amendment authorizes the Legislature to totally or partially exempt from property taxes the homestead property of a surviving spouse of a military veteran or first responder who died in the line of duty; 61.37% for and 38.63% against.
10. Expanded homestead for seniors: This amendment would provide an exemption from ad valorem taxes on tangible personal property if the assessed value is greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000; 45.22% for and 54.78% against.
11. Expanded homestead for low-income seniors: This amendment would allow an additional homestead tax exemption to a property owner who has lived there for 25 years, is 65 years of age and has a low household income; 60.92% for and 39.08% against.
12. Student representation on Board of Governors: This amendment would require the Board of Governors to create a council of state university student body presidents and name the chair of that council as the student member of the board, replacing the Florida Student Association president; 41.25% for and 58.75% against.
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