Q. Can you provide some information on the proposed constitutional amendments that will be appearing on the November ballot?

A. Using resources provided by Florida TaxWatch, The James Madison Institute, the BallotPedia, Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities, Inc., the League of Women Voters, the Tampa Bay Times, and the Constitution Revision Commission, I will summarize, over the next few weeks, each of the proposed amendments, with the purpose only to provide information that might be helpful to encourage more informed votes.

In this week's issue, I will cover Amendments #1 and, #2, which along with #5 were placed on the ballot by our legislature after 60 percent of both the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed to do so. Amendments 3 and 4 are citizen initiatives, where a required number of signatures by registered voters get the proposed amendment on a ballot. The other amendments were referred by the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to review and propose changes to the Florida Constitution. Florida is the only state with a commission empowered to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot.

Amendment 1 to increase homestead exemption by $25,000 for homes valued at more than $100,000: In brief, a yes vote exempts home values between $100,000 through $125,000 from property taxes – other than school taxes – which increases the maximum homestead exemption to $75,000. A no vote keeps the current homestead exemption structure and retains the $50,000 exemption rather than raising it to $75,000.

Supporters of this measure, which originated with the Legislature, say this amendment’s tax break would make homes more affordable. Opponents argue that with the amendment, most benefits go to only a handful of homeowners; that it is not a tax break but a tax shift because while someone might benefit, someone else has to pick up the tab; and that it is likely a decrease in revenue will result in cuts to services or higher local rates. Local officials may need to raise millage rates and would need to exhibit greater fiscal responsibility if Amendment 1 passes. Opponents are the Florida Association of Counties; Florida Education Association; Florida League of Cities; Florida Policy Institute; League of Women Voters of Florida; Florida City and County Management Association; and Progress Florida.

Amendment 2 would make permanent the existing temporary cap of 10 percent on annual property value increases for vacation homes, apartments and commercial property, effectively limiting increases on tax bills: A yes vote would make permanent the 10 percent limit on increases in tax value for non-homestead property, thus reducing tax bills. It would continue to deny local governments (excluding school districts) tax revenue they would otherwise collect from rising property values. A no vote would end the practice of limiting tax increases on non-homestead property, resulting in additional revenue to local governments of about $700 million, according to the State Revenue Estimating Conference. Those in favor of this measure, which originated with the Legislature, argue Florida has an inequitable property tax system that disproportionately burdens renters, businesses, second home-owners, snowbirds, and other non-homestead property owners. They say this cap helped stem the multi-billion dollar tax shift from homestead to non-homestead properties, and cite that on average, non-homestead property is taxed at 91 percent of its just value, while homestead exemptions result in homestead property being taxed on 53 percent of its value.

Opponents argue funds from property taxes are vital to local governments providing necessary services. Another argument is whether this language needs to be in the Constitution when tax issues can be addressed by the legislature. Supporters include the Florida Association of Realtors; Florida Chamber of Commerce; and Florida Tax Watch. Opponents include the Florida Education Association and the League of Women Voters of Florida.

If you have any questions or comments about this column, please forward them to Marcia Johnson, Clerk of the Court, 33 Market Street, Ste. 203, Apalachicola, Florida, or by email to: mmjohnson@franklinclerk.com. Visit the Clerk’s website at www.franklinclerk.com.