Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Proposed Constitutional Amendments (FLORIDA)

Proposed Constitutional Amendments for the November 7, 2006 Ballot


Please find below a brief summary of the major provisions of the proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on the general election ballot this year.  The central provisions of each amendment are underlined.  

Amendment 1 – State Budgeting, Planning, and Appropriations Process

If passed, this amendment would limit the amount of non-recurring general revenue that may be used to fund the recurring costs of state programs to 3% of total general revenue.  For fiscal year 2005-2006 this would be approximately $800 million.  A 3/5 vote in the House and Senate may be used to approve the expenditures that exceed the 3% limit.  

This amendment would also establish a Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which will analyze Florida’s fiscal needs and report to the Legislature to assist budgetary decision-making.  The Commission will seek input from the public, as well as work with all branches of government to create accurate long-range financial outlooks.  

This amendment would also allow the Governor or Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court to make recommendations to the Legislative Budget Commission to make  limited adjustments to the state budget, without the need to obtain approval of the full Legislature.  

This amendment would also update and amend the rules for trust funds, reducing the number of times they are automatically terminated to create a more streamlined appropriations process.

The amendment also would create a Government Efficiency Task Force in 2007, and every 4 years thereafter, composed of legislators and private sector appointees, to make recommendations to improve government and reduce costs.  The Task Force will be staffed as provided in law, with assistance from the private sector permitted, and will be required to complete its work in one year.

Amendment 3 – Requiring Broader Public Support for Constitutional Amendments or Revisions

If passed, this would require future proposed constitutional amendment to pass with 60% of the vote instead of the current simple majority of votes cast.
Amendment 4 – Protect People, Especially Youth, from Addiction, Disease, and Other Health Hazards of Using Tobacco

In order to “protect people, especially youth, from addiction, disease, and other health hazards of using tobacco,” this amendment would require the Legislature to annually use money from the Tobacco Settlement for a comprehensive statewide tobacco education and prevention program.  The amount is to be 15% of annual Tobacco Settlement payments made to Florida, adjusted annually.

Amendment 6 – Increased Homestead Exemption  

     This amendment would increase the maximum additional homestead exemption for low-income seniors from $25,000 to $50,000, with an effective date of January 1, 2007.  The Florida Constitution currently offers a $25,000 Homestead Exemption to all owners of “homestead” properties, and allows local governments (counties or cities) the option of offering an additional exemption to low income seniors of up to $25,000 (for a total maximum exemption of $50,000).  Under the Florida Constitution, seniors are eligible for this added benefit if they are 65 years old or above with a household income that does not exceed $20,000, adjusted for inflation.  This amendment could save the average low income senior homeowner hundreds of dollars a year on their property tax bill.  

  Amendment 7 – Permanently Disabled Veterans’ Discount on Homestead Ad Valorem Tax

This amendment would provide a discount from property taxes on a homestead property owned by a partially or totally disabled veteran who is 65 or older, who also was a Florida resident at the time of entering the service.  If their disability was combat related and they were honorably discharged, a percentage discount equal to the percentage of the veteran’s permanent disability would be available.  Thus, a veteran deemed to be 50% disabled would receive a 50% discount on their property tax bill.  Depending on the situation, the savings could be hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Amendment 8 – Eminent Domain

This amendment would prohibit the transfer of private property taken by the government’s eminent domain powers from one private owner to another private owner.  The Legislature could create exemptions to allow such transfers with a 3/5 vote in each chamber.  This issue gained immediate and significant importance when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 2005 Kelo v. The City of New London decision, wherein the Court decided that the Constitution allows local governments to take private property from one owner and transfer it to another owner, so long as doing so serves some other “public purpose” (e.g. providing a potential economic benefit to the community).  Kelo left open the possibility of state and local governments limiting their own power to use eminent domain for such a broad purpose.

No comments: