This Nov. 6, Florida voters will face the longest list of proposed constitutional changes in decades, including an amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to nearly 1.4 million felons. Each proposed amendment is as terrifically confusing as always, so the Fine Print broke down this historically long list to help you figure out which circle to pen in on election day. •

 

AMENDMENT 1 

Illustrations by Weston Mansfield

Would raise the portion of a home’s value that can be exempted from non-school property taxes.

What does voting yes do?

If passed, homes valued between $100,000 and $125,000 could see up to $75,000 in property tax exemptions.

What’s the impact?

This amendment appears to be designed to benefit wealthy homeowners at the expense of already-beleaguered local governments. Homeowners might save a couple hundred dollars a year on property taxes, but local governments across the state would lose about $645 million, according to a legislative staff analysis. Seventy-six percent of property owners in Florida would not benefit from it, according to watchdog group Florida Tax Watch.

 

AMENDMENT 2 

Would permanently place a 10-percent cap on the annual increase of non-homestead tax assessments.

What does voting yes do?

This amendment wouldn’t change current law but will codify protections so annual tax increases don’t impact renters and business owners.

What’s the impact?

If the amendment fails, owners of rental and commercial properties will have to pay taxes on the full value of the properties, which could translate into higher costs for renters, small business owners and people living on a fixed-income.

 

AMENDMENT 3

Would give voters the right to decide whether a new casino can be opened in the state.  

What does voting yes do?

If this amendment passes, the only way to open a new casino would be through a citizen’s initiative, a process that would involve getting hundreds of thousands signatures and majority voter approval. The current process requires a simple legislative majority.

What’s the impact?

Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have spent nearly $40 million dollars campaigning for this amendment as it would make it harder to expand gambling — owners of dog and horse tracks oppose the amendment for the same reason.

 

AMENDMENT 4

Would restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions upon completion of their sentences.

What will it do?

If this passes, a person’s right to vote would be automatically restored after completion of their sentence. Currently, those who have committed felonies must wait five years to apply for re-eligibility, and they must appeal to the Florida governor and Cabinet, a lengthy and arduous process. This would exclude those who have committed murder or sex crimes

What’s the impact?

Florida is one of only four states that prohibits convicted felons from voting. Approving this amendment would add nearly 1.4 million voters to the pool.

 

AMENDMENT 5

Would require a two-thirds legislative supermajority to raise taxes or institute new fees. This includes taxes on alcohol and gasoline and fees for concealed firearms permits.

WHO DOES IT IMPACT?

Anyone who pays taxes and fees – so pretty much everyone. A supermajority requirement makes it difficult to pass legislation, which could become a problem in cases of emergency, such as with a tax increase related to a hurricanes or disaster-relief efforts.

 

AMENDMENT 6

This amendment comes to you in three parts: Voting ‘yes’ on one means all parts are approved.

Part 1: Marsy’s law

This amendment would enshrine specific rights for crime victims, like the right to privacy or to be “reasonably protected from the accused.” It would also give victims legal standing to testify during hearings to determine a defendant’s bail, sentencing, plea deals and parole. The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center both oppose this amendment.

What’s the impact?

Supporters say this law would make it easier for victims to get justice. But critics say Marsy’s Law would infringe on the rights of the accused by, for instance, preventing public defenders from interviewing victims privately about eyewitness identification, one of the most unreliable forms of testimony. Critics say Florida also has relatively strong victims rights, and the problems with the state’s criminal justice system come not from the law but its implementation.

Part 2

This would raises the mandatory retirement rate for Florida judges from 70 to 75, but many states don’t even have a cap.

Part 3

This would prohibit judges from deferring to administrative agencies in interpreting law, a long-standing legal practice.

 

AMENDMENT 7

This amendment comes to you in three parts: Voting ‘yes’ on one means voting ‘yes’ on all.

Part 1 would provide college tuition for the survivors of first responders and military members killed on duty. Currently, Florida law provides death benefits for law enforcement officers, corrections officers, firefighters and members. This proposal would add paramedics, emergency medical technicians and U.S. military members residing in Florida to the list.

Part 2 would require a supermajority vote by university trustees and board of governors to raise or impose legislatively authorized fees, which would make it harder for colleges to increase student fees.

Part 3 would establish a state and community college system in the Florida constitution.

 

AMENDMENT 9

This amendment comes to you in two parts that really shouldn’t go together.

What will it do?

Amendment 9 would permanently ban in the state constitution drilling for oil and gas in state waters, which is already banned in Florida law. It would also, for some reason, ban smoking of e-cigarettes in restaurants and indoor workplaces.

What’s the impact?

If this amendment passes, people will no longer be able to take out their vape pens at work or in a restaurant for a quick puff.

 

AMENDMENT 10

A four-in-one. Voting ‘no’ on one means voting ‘no’ on all.

Part 1 would require the Legislature to begin its session in January instead of March on election years.

Part 2 would create a counter-terrorism and security office in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Part 3 would constitutionally require the state to have a Department of Veterans Affairs.

Part 4 mandates that sheriffs, tax collectors, election supervisors and clerks of the court be elected, rather than appointed, in every county. Currently sheriffs are appointed in Miami-Dade County.

 

AMENDMENT 11

This amendment comes to you in three parts: Voting ‘yes’ on one means voting ‘yes’ on all.

Part 1 would delete language from the Florida’s constitution that currently prevents “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from buying, selling, owning or inheriting property.

Part 2 would repeal the “Savings Clause,” a constitutional relic from 1885 that requires individuals be prosecuted under the law that was in effect when the alleged crime was committed, even if that law changes while they’re still being prosecuted. This amendment aims to ensure that individuals are prosecuted under the most current law. Florida is one of just three states that still enforces the Savings Clause.

Part 3 would delete a section from the Constitution that mandates a high-speed transportation system, which voters repealed in 2004.

 

AMENDMENT 12

Prohibits public officials from lobbying for compensation while in office and for six years after.

What will it do?

This amendment would bar public officials from lobbying while they’re in office and for six years after they leave (current law bans lobbying for two years). It would also  prevent elected officials and their families from receiving a “disproportionate benefit” while in office. The state Ethics Committee would have to define what that means.

 

AMENDMENT 13

Prohibits commercial dog racing in the state.

What will it do?

Make betting on dogs races in Florida illegal in December 2020, but it would still allow other types of racetrack gambling, like slot machines. Florida has 12 of the nation’s 18 dog-racing tracks.

Who does it impact?

In theory, dogs. Supporters of Amendment 13 want to ban commercial dog racing to protect dogs, primarily greyhounds, from mistreatment. Critics point out the amendment doesn’t say anything about animal rights and won’t prevent Floridians from betting on races that happen outside the state.

 

Sources: Miami Herald, The Appeal, League of Women Voters, Florida Today.