What to know about Florida's 12 amendments on 2018 ballot

Voter restoration, rights of crime victims amendments on November ballot

By News4Jax.com Staff, Florida Today Staff
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

ORLANDO, Fla. - There will be 12 amendments on the midterm election ballot this year for all Florida voters. All are important and somewhat confusing, many amendments combine two or more issues together. 

Click here to read how the Amendments will appear on the ballot. Amendment 8 was recently removed from the ballot.

News 6 partner WJXT breaks down below what the amendments mean to Florida voters and Florida Today has provided information on what groups are for or against the amendments on the Nov. 6. ballot.

Amendment 1: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption

This amendment raises the homestead property tax exemption by $25,000 for homes worth more than $100,000. That would exempt the value between $100,000 and $125,000 of a home that serves as the owner's primary residence. The amendment shall take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Support:  Republicans in the state Legislature, who put the measure on the ballot because it would lower taxes for almost 60 percent of homesteaded properties.

Opponents: Groups that advocate for local governments such as the Florida Association of Counties. Cities, counties and special districts across the state would lose an estimated $752.7 million in their budgets in the first year (school districts would not be impacted).

Read more: Amendment 1 property tax break would give homeowners $250-$750

Amendment 2: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments 
This proposal permanently places a 10 percent cap on the annual increase of non-homestead property tax assessments. This amendment wouldn't change current law, but it puts protections in place so exorbitant increases don't impact renters, business owners and consumers.

Support: Florida Tax Watch, small businesses and the Florida Association of Realtors

Opponents: The League of Women Voters of Florida, because of the group's position that no tax revenue should be prohibited in the Constitution. 

Amendment 3: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida 

This amendment gives voters the exclusive right to decide whether a new casino can open in the state. It takes that right away from the Florida Legislature, which has failed in recent years to reach an agreement on the issue.

Support: Seminole Tribe of Florida and Disney, because the amendment would make it harder to expand gambling. The two groups have spent nearly $40 million campaigning for Amendment 3. 

Opponents: Owners of dog and horse tracks because they would need statewide voter approval to add casino gambling at each track. 

Amendment 4: Voter Restoration Amendment 

The amendment restores voting rights to former felons who served their sentence, including parole and probation, with the exception of those convicted of murder and sexual offenses. Currently, former felons must wait at least 5 years after completing their sentences to ask the Florida Clemency Board, made up by the governor and the Cabinet, to restore their rights. 

Support: The more than 799,000 voters whose signatures were certified on a petition by the group Floridians for Fair Democracy to place Amendment 4 on the ballot; the conservative group Koch Brothers and ice cream company Ben & Jerry's.

Singer John Legend recently visited Evans High School in Orlando to throw his support behind Amendment 4.

Opponents: The group Floridians For A Sensible Voting Rights Policy because, while Amendment 4 excludes felons convicted of murder and sex crimes, it doesn't differentiate between people who committed other violent crimes and those who committed nonviolent crimes. 

Amendment 5: Super-majority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees

This amendment would require a two-thirds vote in the Florida House and Senate — instead of a simple majority — to raise taxes. It was placed on the ballot by the Legislature with the intent to make it more difficult for lawmakers to raise taxes. 

Support: The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Tax Watch

Opponents: The Florida Policy Institute, Progress Florida, League of Women Voters of Florida and Florida Education Association.

Amendment 6: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges

The Constitution Revision Commission bundled together three separate issues in Amendment 6. This makes this amendment confusing. First, it would expand the scope of victims' rights under the Florida Constitution, including: victims' rights to due process; freedom from intimidation and abuse protection from the accused and protections for victims if bail is granted. Second, it would raise the mandatory retirement age of Florida judges, including Supreme Court justices, from 70 to 75. And third, it would prohibit state courts from deferring to an administrative agency's interpretation of a state statute or rule.

Support: Many Florida sheriffs and victim advocacy groups that believe courts have gone too far defending the rights of the accused. 

Opponents: Criminal defense attorneys, who fear giving victims a role in court proceedings would create an emotional rather than a legal process, and the League of Women Voters of Florida because the amendment would remove a provision that victims’ rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.

Amendment 7: First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities

Three more proposals in one: providing college tuition for the survivors of first responders and military members killed on duty, requiring university trustees to agree by a two-thirds super-majority to raise college fees (not including tuition) and establishing the state college system in the Florida Constitution.

Support: The Association of Florida Colleges because it recognizes state colleges, formerly called community colleges, in the state Constitution. 

Opponents: The Florida League of Women Voters of Florida because the group opposes a super-majority vote to raise fees and taxes, and because members of the military who die in the line of service are already compensated through the federal government.

Amendment 8: Would have taken control of charter schools from local school districts and given it to the state. However, Amendment 8 was removed from the Nov. 6 ballot after the Florida League of Women Voters sued saying it misled voters by not clearly stating its true purpose.

Amendment 9: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces

Basically, this would ban oil and gas drilling in state-owned waters and ban smoking electronic cigarettes indoors. It's two issues bundled into one amendment, once again. The waters most immediately adjacent to Florida’s coastline are in state control, then become federal jurisdiction farther offshore. This amendment pertains just to state-controlled water, prohibiting oil and gas drilling for exploration or extraction in offshore areas. It doesn’t block transport of oil or gas from federal territorial waters through state waters to Florida’s ports. The second part of the amendment prohibits the indoor use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. The amendment doesn’t restrict use of these devices inside private residences (unless they’re used for child or health care) nor in standalone bars or hotel rooms where smoking is allowed.

Support: Many Florida environmental groups and The League of Women Voters support the amendment based on the offshore drilling protections.

Opponents:  Among opponents is the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which suggests these issues can be addressed by the Legislature. A former Florida Supreme Court justice is among those legally challenging the bundling of this and other amendments. The case is on appeal.

Amendment 10: State and Local Government Structure and Operation

This amendment includes four separate government regulatory proposals into one amendment. First, require the Legislature to start its annual session in January instead of March during even-numbered years. That’s because these are election years; an earlier start means lawmakers can finish before May. Second, create a counter-terrorism and security office within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Third, require the state to have a Department of Veterans Affairs, which already exists. And fourth, require that all 67 counties must elect their sheriff, tax collector, elections supervisor and clerk of courts. Several Florida counties now have at least one of these positions appointed based on home-rule charters. 

Support: The primary supporters are the constitution commission members who proposed it and several Central Florida public officials. Florida’s 66 elected sheriffs, tax collectors, clerks of the courts, property appraisers and TaxWatch are all in support of Amendment 10.

Opponents: This amendment was legally challenged, but the Florida Supreme Court left it on the ballot in an early September ruling. The League of Women Voters is also against this. 

Amendment 11: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes

This amendment has three parts to it. First, Florida’s Constitution currently has language that allows the Legislature to prevent noncitizens from buying, selling, owning or inheriting property. Amendment 11 would delete this language. Example, "aliens ineligible for citizenship" would be removed. Second, Florida’s Constitution added the “Savings Clause” in 1885 and is one of only three states that enforces one. This clause forbids making changes to criminal sentencing laws retroactive. For example, if the Legislature changes a mandatory minimum sentence for an offense from 20 years to five years, anyone still being prosecuted for or already convicted of that offense would still have to serve 20 years. Amendment 11 repeals the Savings Clause. It also deletes language approving a high-speed rail. Floridians voted down the high-speed rail project in 2004, but the language was never removed.

Support: The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Asian-American groups, which have pushed to repeal alien land laws enacted in the 1910s and 1920s to prevent Asian immigrants from owning property. Gun rights groups support repealing the Savings Clause in hopes that will make retroactive a change to the "stand your ground" law that put the burden of proof on the prosecution instead of defendants in pre-trial hearings. 

Opponents: A lawsuit filed by former Supreme Court Justice Harry Anstead claims Amendment 11 violates voters’ First Amendment rights by bundling three unrelated issues and that the measure is misleading. A Leon County judge ruled in September the measure be struck from the ballot, and the state has appealed it.  

Amendment 12: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

It expands ethics rules for public officials — both elected officials and government employees, including judges. The new rules are complex, but essentially this single-issue amendment would bar public officials from lobbying during their terms and for six years after leaving office, and restrict current public officers from using their office for personal gain.

Support: Government watchdog group Integrity Florida and other ethics organizations

Opponents: The Florida Chamber, which claims these issues should be addressed through the legislative process

Amendment 13: Ends Dog Racing

The final amendment is also a single proposal to end commercial greyhound and other dog racing by 2020. Forty states ban the activity and Florida, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa and Texas are the only ones where dog racing is legal and operational. Racing has been dying, but Florida law requires tracks to race dogs in order to keep their license to offer more profitable card games and slot machines, which they still would be able to offer if Amendment 13 is approved. 

Support: GREY2K USA Worldwide, a greyhound welfare group that helped push the Constitution Revision Commission to add Amendment 13 to the ballot. 

Opponents: The Florida Greyhound Association, which represents the state's 12 track owners. The group filed a lawsuit attempting to remove the amendment from the ballot, saying the ballot language is misleading because it hides the fact the amendment would allow tracks to continue to offer the other types of gaming. The Florida Supreme Court, however, ruled the measure must remain on the ballot. Breeders and people who depend on the industry also oppose it.

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