Florida's Proposed Constitutional Amendments: Who Lost and Who Won ?

Nov 9, 2012

Voters in Florida rejected most of the proposed constitutional amendments on their ballots Election Day. Critics have even partly blamed the historically long ballot for the long lines at polling places. Out of 11, only three gained 60-percent of the votes needed to pass. The topics range from abortion to the Legislature attempting to go around the federal healthcare law, or Amendment 1.

More than 12 million dollars was spent campaigning for or against Florida’s Constitutional Amendments. That’s also about the amount it will cost local governments in lost property taxes for three of the 11 amendments that passed on Election Day. That’s one of the reasons why some groups, like the League of Women Voters, had campaigned for Florida voters to vote down all the amendments.

“I’m glad the electorate didn’t take that advice and saw that Amendment 9 is a worthwhile addition to our Constitution,” said Matt Puckett, the Executive Director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association is a big proponent of Amendment 9, which allows full Homestead Property Relief to the surviving spouses of the military and first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty. Puckett says it’s the least residents can do for these spouses.

“Unfortunately, there are places in this state where there are a number of surviving spouses who are struggling to make ends meet, but it’s not going to be a budget breaker to the communities or counties by any means,” said Puckett.

The other Amendments that passed were Amendments 2 and 11, which give homestead property tax exemptions to veterans disabled due to combat as well as many low-income seniors.

Meanwhile, all other amendments failed to pass including Amendment 6, which would have ended public funding for abortions.

Staci Fox, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Florida, says that defeat sent a strong message in the state as well as across the country that women don’t want politicians in the middle of their personal decisions.

“I think that what this says is that these issues matter to women when they go to the polls," said Fox. "And, politicians need to focus on what they’re really there to do, which is worry about the economy and jobs, and passing a budget, rather than passing bills and trying to take women’s public access away.”

But, proponents of the Amendment, Florida Catholic Conference disagreed, saying the amendment would’ve only allowed parents to have a say in their child’s abortion decisions. The group’s Michael Sheedy says his organization was also disappointed to see Amendment 8 fail. That’s the one that would have removed restrictions on public money going to religious institutions.

“It certainly is a setback that Amendment 8 failed," remarked Sheedy. "And, we are still concerned that religious providers of important services to all members of the community will continue to live under the potential of a challenge, just based on the fact that they are religious organizations. And, those partnerships for both state and local governments seem vulnerable to us. We will continue to work to pursue the freedom of those organizations to preserve our state.”

Amendment 4, which gave additional homestead exemptions to first time home buyers among other things, also failed. But, Craigin Mosteller with the Florida Association of Counties says had the amendment passed, it would have been a bad deal for taxpayers.

“We think this is a win for Florida’s year round residents. At the end of the day, Amendment 4 would have been a tax shift for them. And, so we’re really glad they stood up for themselves," said Mosteller. "We think it speaks highly to the fact that citizens want home rule. They want the communities closest to them making the decisions for their communities.”

And, the League of Women Voters on general principle wanted all the amendments to be voted down. The League’s Jessica Lowe-Minor says it made the ballot too long, sometimes topping 600-words with misleading text. She says Floridians should not have to vote on issues that should have been dealt with in the Florida Legislature, especially on topics that they may not have understood.

“So, we think that certainly issues that deal with revenue and taxation should fall under the purview of the Legislature," said Lowe-Minor. "And, we don’t think it’s appropriate to enshrine permanently any type of revenue or taxation model because that might not be relevant 20, 50, 60, 100 years from now. And, yet when something is inside the Constitution, it’s extremely difficult to modify or remove.”

Meanwhile, Senate President Designate Don Gaetz says he would have liked the Legislature to address several of the issues covered by the Constitutional amendments, so that Florida voters do not have to wrestle with such complicated issues.

“I much would have preferred being able to do it through a statutory means," said Gaetz. "The problem is we’ve got a Constitution that’s more like Levitican Law [refers to the Book of Leviticus], and we need to clean it up and fix it. And, then I think it will be easier to deal with issues, that ought to be done in the Legislature, in the Legislature.”

Other amendments that failed:

Amendment 3: Replaces the current state revenue limitation

Amendment 5: It gives the Senate a chance to confirm new Supreme Court Justices once they’ve been selected by a state judicial nominating committee and appointed by the governor. It makes it easier for the state to change rules about how the court functions and it gives the Speaker of the House access to documents from the judicial qualifications commission used in the review of a judge.

Amendment 10:  Deals with tangible personal property tax exemptions. Provide an exemption from ad-valorem taxes levied by local governments on tangible personal property that's value is greater than $25,000, but less than $50,000.

Amendment 12: If it had passed, it would have changed the way the student member of Florida’s public university governing board is picked.

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