Constitutional Emergency

Proposed Constitutional Amendments: Your Vote Matters

Dear Neighbor,

The 2012 General Election could not be more important to the future of our state and our nation. On November 6, or earlier if you vote early or by absentee ballot, Floridians will chose the next President and Vice President of the United States, a United States Senator, 27 Members of the United States Congress and every single member of the Florida Legislature except for those already elected in the primary.. Floridians will also have the opportunity to vote on a number of amendments to our state constitution.

The Collins Center for Public Policy at Florida State University is a respected and reliable source of objective information about constitutional questions. The Collins Center is a statewide non-profit, non-partisan public policy organization that does not endorse political candidates and is not affiliated with any political party or candidate. The Collins Center was founded in 1988 and named after former Governor LeRoy Collins.

As a service, the Collins Center has prepared a short explanation of each of the ballot questions and the referendum measure. With their permission, I’m including the Collins Center information – word for word as they prepared it – with this report to you.

I have my own views on these questions, as do many Floridians. However, my purpose in providing this information is not to persuade, but to offer the perspectives of a group of highly-regarded scholars and public policy analysts. Once you read the Collins Center explanations I hope you’ll check out the arguments put forward by proponents and opponents of each proposal. By means of full disclosure, I have noted those amendments which I co-sponsored in the Legislature. I voted in favor of placing all of the amendments on the ballot for your consideration.

If you would like more information on the Collins Center, please visit their website at www.FlAmendments.org.

Amendment 1 : Health Care Services
Title on ballot: Health Care Services
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature (Senator Gaetz is a sponsor of this proposal)

What it would do: This would add an amendment to the state constitution that attempts to prohibit the government from requiring individuals to purchase health insurance.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you want the Florida Constitution to include a provision that prohibits the government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you do not want the Florida Constitution to include a provision that prohibits the government from requiring you to purchase health insurance.

Amendment 2: Veteran’s Property Tax Discount
Title on Ballot: Veterans Disabled Due To Combat Injury; Homestead Property Tax Discount
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature (Senator Gaetz is a sponsor of this proposal)

What it would do: This amendment would allow certain disabled veterans, who were not Florida residents prior to entering military service, to qualify for a discount on their property taxes.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you want the state to give a property tax discount to disabled veterans who moved to Florida after entering the military.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you do not want to extend the tax discount to disabled veterans who moved to Florida after entering the military.

Amendment 3: State Revenue Limitation
Title on Ballot: State Government Revenue Limitation
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature (Senator Gaetz is a sponsor of this proposal)

What it would do: This amendment would set a state revenue limit each year based on a formula that considers population growth and inflation instead of using the current method of calculating the revenue limit based on personal income.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you do not want the state to change the way it calculates its revenue limit.

Amendment 4: Property tax limitations; property value decline; reduction for non-homesteaded assessment increases; delay of scheduled repeal
Title on Ballot: Property Tax Limitations; Property Value Decline; Reduction For Nonhomestead Assessment Increases; Delay of Scheduled Repeal
Sponsor: The Florida Legislature (Senator Gaetz is a sponsor of this proposal)
What it would do: Reduce the maximum annual increase in taxable value of non-homestead properties from 10 percent to 5 percent; provide an extra homestead exemption for first-time home buyers; allow lawmakers to prohibit assessment increases for properties with decreasing market values.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you favor the enhanced tax breaks being proposed.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you are against the enhanced tax breaks being proposed.

Amendment 5: State Courts
Title on ballot: State Courts
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature

What it would do: This measure would provide for Senate confirmation of Supreme Court justices; give lawmakers control over changes to the rules governing the court system; and direct the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates judicial misconduct complaints, to make its files available to the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you want the Senate to have confirmation power over Supreme Court appointees, and some authority over changes to the rules that govern the state’s courts. You also want to grant the House access to Judicial Qualifications Commission’s investigative files on judges.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you do not want these proposed changes made to the state’s judiciary.

Amendment 6: Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights
Title on Ballot: Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature

What it would do: This amendment would make the existing federal ban on public funding for most abortions part of the state constitution. It would narrow the scope of a state privacy law that is sometimes used in Florida to challenge abortion laws.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you support putting the existing federal ban on the use of public funds for abortions into the state constitution; and you support eliminating the state’s privacy right with respect to a woman’s right to choose.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you are against placing the existing federal ban on using public funds for abortions into the state constitution; and you are against eliminating the state’s privacy right with respect to a woman’s right to choose.

Amendment 7: This proposal was known as Amendment 7 until a legal challenge by opponents led to the rewriting of some of the ballot language and its reinstatement on the ballot as Amendment 8. This is the reason there is no Amendment 7 on the 2012 ballot.

Amendment 8: Religious Freedom
Title on Ballot: Religious Freedom
Sponsor: The Florida Legislature

Note: This proposal was known as Amendment 7 until a legal challenge by opponents led to the rewriting of some of the ballot language and its reinstatement on the ballot as Amendment 8. This is the reason there is no Amendment 7 on the 2012 ballot.

What it would do: This amendment would remove the prohibition in Florida’s Constitution that prevents religious institutions from receiving taxpayer funding.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you want to remove from the Florida Constitution a prohibition against the state funding religious institutions and replace it with a provision that prohibits the state from denying funding to institutions based on religious affiliations.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you want to retain the provision in the Florida Constitution that prohibits the state from funding religious institutions.

Amendment 9: Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder
Title on Ballot: Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature

What it would do: This would grant a full property tax exemption to the surviving spouses of military veterans who die while on active duty and to the surviving spouses of first responders who die in the line of duty.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you want the state to grant the full homestead exemption to the surviving spouses.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you do not want the state to grant the full homestead exemption.

Amendment 10: Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption
Title on Ballot: Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature

What it would do: This amendment would double the tangible personal property tax exemption and allow local governments to increase the exemption.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you want to double the tangible personal property tax exemption and allow cities and counties to expand the exemptions beyond that.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you do not want to double the tangible personal property tax exemption and you do not want to allow cities and counties to expand the exemptions.

Amendment 11: Additional Homestead Exemption; Low-Income Seniors Who Maintain Long-Term Residency on Property; Equal to Assessed Value
Title on Ballot: Additional Homestead Exemption; Low-Income Seniors Who Maintain Long-Term Residency on Property; Equal to Assessed Value
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature

What it would do: This amendment would give an additional property tax exemption to low-income seniors who have lived in their home for more than 25 years.

If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you think cities and counties should have the authority to grant a full property tax discount to eligible seniors.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you do not think that cities and counties should have the authority to grant a full property tax discount to eligible seniors.

Amendment 12: Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System
Title on Ballot: Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System
Sponsor/Originator: The Florida Legislature

What it would do: This amendment would change the way the state selects the student representative on the state university system’s Board of Governors, which oversees the university system.
If you vote yes: A “yes” vote means you want the state create a new council of university student presidents from which the student representative to the Board of Governors will be chosen.

If you vote no: A “no” vote means you want to keep the current system of selecting the student representative to the Board of Governors.

For more information on the proposed constitutional amendments for the 2012 General Election, you can also visit the Department of State, Division of Elections website via the following link, http://election.dos.state.fl.us/constitutional-amendments/2012-proposed.shtml.
Thank you for the privilege of serving as Senator for Northwest Florida. Please contact me any time with your concerns, suggestions, criticisms and ideas. Your guidance makes me a better senator.

Respectfully,

Senator Don Gaetz

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