CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said he sympathizes with voters befuddled by summaries for 11 proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution that appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance — and we’ll just kind of leave that where it is,” Lux said as he began his address to the Oct. 10 meeting of the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce Government Issues Committee.
The ballot summaries’ lengths for each amendment resulted in election supervisors having to issue four-page, legal-sized ballots.
“All those amendments were put there by the Florida Legislature,” Lux said. “The legislature is not restricted by the law that says amendment descriptions have to be 75 words or less.”
Lux presented a brief summary of each amendment.
• Amendment 1:“Health Care Services” would prohibit compelling residents to buy health insurance. However, Lux said, no matter the vote on this amendment, directed against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, “the U.S. Supreme Court has already decided the issue is constitutional (residents may be compelled to buy health insurance),” so any state amendment, by federal law, is moot.
• Amendment 2:“Veterans disabled due to combat injury” relaxes eligibility requirements for an existing property tax exemption for veterans disabled due to a combat injury.
“What this would do is throw (a) door pretty wide open that says any veteran in the state of Florida has this exemption,” Lux said. “If this happens, you can bet on a decrease in ad valorem taxes.”
• Amendment 3: “State government revenue limitation” would change the current revenue cap based on personal income to a more restrictive formula based on population growth and inflation rates.
• Amendment 4: “Property tax limitations.”
“This takes an entire column on a 14-inch ballot card,” Lux said. “I’d say that’s a little over 75 words. It’s actually just shy of 600.
“This would prevent the assessed value of your home, if you’re protected under Save Our Homes, from increasing when market values decline. It would repeal the ‘recapture’ rule.”
The amendment would also reduce the increase cap on non-homestead property from 10 percent to 5 percent, and provides an additional discount for first-time homebuyers.
• Amendment 5: “State courts.”
The amendment would grant the senate power to confirm the governor’s appointment of justices to the Florida Supreme Court, would let lawmakers repeal court rules with a majority instead of a two-thirds vote, and give House members access to confidential information about judges.
• Amendment 6: “Prohibition on public funding of abortions.”
“This one is no surprise in getting a lot of attention,” Lux said. “Basically, this is nothing more than a reinforcement of federal law and Florida law …. It also removes the broad use of the privacy clause in the Constitution.”
• Amendment 8: “Religious freedom.”
“This would repeal restrictions in Florida’s Constitution that prohibits taxpayer funding of religious institutions.”
Lux said the amendment’s passage would probably result in the school voucher program’s expansion.
“It doesn’t mean it’s exclusively about schools,” Lux said. “That’s why they use that broad term ‘institutions,’ but mostly this is about religiously affiliated schools.”
• Amendment 9: “Homestead property tax exemption for surviving spouse of military veteran or first responder.”
“This is already in law (for veterans’ spouses) and has been since 1997,” Lux said. “Right now, there’s nothing out there for first-responders.”
The benefit would apply retroactively to the year the recipient’s spouse was killed.
• Amendment 10: “Tangible personal property tax exemption,” would double the exemption for tangible personal property from $25,000 to $50,000.
“This is mostly a tax on business people” on furniture, fixtures, machinery, tools, signs and equipment, Lux said. “It shouldn’t come as any surprise that something like this is going to lower tax revenue.”
• Amendment 11: “Additional homestead exemption; low-income seniors.”
“This would eliminate the entire property tax bill if you are age 65 or older,” Lux said.
The senior would have to have an income less than $27,030, the home’s market value must be less than $250,000, “so you can’t have a big, fat condo on the beach,” and the senior must have lived there 25 years or more.
“You have to have a vote by local governments to put it in place,” Lux said.
• Amendment 12: “Appointment of student body president to Board of Governors.”
Lux said this amendment would create a new Council of Student Body Presidents from state colleges, the president of which would be one of 17 members of the Statewide Board of Governors of state schools. Florida State University does not participate in the current student body presidents’ group.
“I almost like this one as much as the dog track one in Miami a few years ago,” Lux said. “It’s not as good as pregnant pigs, though,” he said, referencing an amendment that once sought to protect expectant sows.
To expedite voting and to avoid delaying polling place lines, Lux encouraged voters to familiarize themselves with the candidates, amendments and the proposed new Crestview city charter, the ballot’s last item. The proposed charter would replace the current city charter with a city administrator form of government.