Big Ballot for November!
Now that the primary election is over, the countdown to the general election has started. We now know who is running for all the statewide seats and the judicial races have been cut down to a handful. We have chosen to help the Broward County School Board out with security and teacher salaries. What most of us don’t know is that there will be up to 12 state constitutional amendments and 11 Broward County charter amendments on our ballots. That is going to make for a very long ballot if you don’t do some homework before election day!
When it comes to changes in the Florida Constitution, one of the first questions to ask is does this really belong in the constitution or should this be part of law? It's important to know that once 60% of the voters approve an amendment, it goes to the Florida Legislature to be implemented. That means the Legislature makes the laws in conjunction with the new section of the constitution. In many instances, what is passed by the voters and what the public ends up with are two very different things.
The first five constitutional amendments were placed on the ballot by the Legislature or by citizen petition. The rest were placed on the ballot by the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) which only meets every 20 years. Two very big differences between the amendments placed on the ballot by the CRC and the other amendments is that the CRC can bundle issues, and its ballot language is not reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.
Amendment 1 was placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature and it’s important to understand that, while it reads like a tax cut, it is actually a tax shift. There will be few people that fall into the guidelines of the supposed tax cut, however, there will be enough in each city to create a deficit for most city and many county governments. What this means is that the cities and counties will need to either cut services or raise taxes.
This is exactly what many in Tallahassee are looking to happen. Here’s why.
Much of the leadership in Tallahassee has been attacking the right of cities and counties to make rules and create services for the folks in their districts. This attack of Home Rule is done by preemption, or by unfunded mandates.
Preemption is when the Legislature takes the power away from local government to create laws specific to a city or county. An example would be if a city wanted to ban vacation rentals in historical areas of a city. Current preemption laws forbid a city from doing so.
An unfunded mandate is when the Legislature requires a city or county to do something, but either gives no funding for it or does not fully fund it. An example of this would be requiring school resource officers in every school, but only funding a portion of the cost. While everyone agrees this is necessary, it adds an unanticipated financial burden for cities.
This leads us back to Amendment 1. This amendment adds an additional homestead exemption on the portion of home values between $100,000 and $125,000, meaning the $25,000 between $100,000 and $125,000 of a home's value would be exempted from property taxes other than school district taxes. Most homeowners will not qualify for this exemption. But those that do will leave a hole in the budgets of the cities they live in.
That gives the Legislature the ability to tout the “tax cut” they gave Floridians and shame on the cities for raising your taxes!
I am hoping that the voting public is smarter than that and will recognize the dangerous game Tallahassee is playing. Don’t be fooled. This is a tax shift and a power play.