Have you looked at the proposed 2012 FL constitutional amendments and wondered what they mean and how you should vote on them? I’ve prepared this guide to help you sort out these amendments.
When we look at the proposed amendments, we need guidelines to determine not only if the idea is a good idea but also whether it is a constitutional issue. Constitutional Educator Brenda MacMenamin has done an excellent job in developing a framework to determine whether an issue is a constitutional issue or not. I drew upon her work in my first point and quote from her on the next two points.
- When we consider an amendment, we must first realize that the FL constitution is the supreme law of FL second only to the US Constitution. As such, we should not amend it for “light and transient causes” as stated in the Declaration of Independence.
- “Every amendment should include the general population and never a specific people group.”
- “Any amendment should not relieve Congress [or the FL Legislature] from fulfilling its purpose and responsibility to ‘hold the purse strings’ of government as it is the only branch that is (or should be) directly responsible to the people (that was before the 17th Amendment.)”
It is with these guidelines that I examined the 2012 proposed FL constitutional amendments.
2012 Proposed Florida Constitutional Amendments
2012 FL Proposed Constitutional Amendments Recommendation
Amendment 1 Health Care Services Yes
Amendment 2: Disabled Veterans Property Tax Discount No*
Amendment 3: State Government Revenue Limitation No
Amendment 4: Property Tax Limitations No*
Amendment 5: State Courts Yes
Amendment 6 Funding of and Right to Abortion No
Amendment 8: Religious Freedom No
Amendment 9: Homestead Property Tax Exemption No*
Amendment 10: Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption Yes
Amendment 11: Homestead Exemption for Seniors No*
Amendment 12: State University System No
*While these amendments have merit, and some are good ideas, they are not proper constitutional issues.
Amendment 1: HEALTH CARE SERVICES.
The proposed Amendment 1 to the FL constitution is designed to prohibit the government from requiring individuals from purchasing healthcare insurance and allowing individuals to directly pay for healthcare. This amendment may give Florida’s governor and legislature both the courage and legal foundation to exert Florida’s 10th amendment rights to protect Floridians from provisions of the Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010 and would prohibit the passage of a similar act on a statewide level.
Since the Affordable Healthcare Act does include coverage for abortions and since socialized healthcare has always led to rationing of care for seniors and the disabled, I support Amendment 1 and ask you to vote yes on 1.
The military is one of the few legitimate functions of government having support and authority in both the US Constitution and the Bible. I do full support giving a property tax discount to combat injured veterans; however, since this amendment applies to a specific group of people and not the general population, this discount should not be applied through a constitutional amendment but through the legislature.
To make matters more complicated, Floridians did pass a similar constitutional amendment in 2006, but the 2006 amendment required that the disabled veteran lived in Florida when they become disabled. Amendment 2 would extend those benefits to veterans who lived in other states when they became disabled. As Constitutional Educator and Attorney Krisanne Hall explains, “If the original provisions had been passed through the appropriate channels of legislation, a simple amendment to the statute could have been easily passed while the legislature was in session. Now Floridians will incur not only the cost of employing our legislators to do their job, but the cost of amending the constitution when the legislators don’t want to, or are unable to do their job.”
I oppose Amendment 2 but call on the FL Legislature to pass legislation granting this exemption to all military veterans injured in the combat, regardless of which state they lived in when injured.
Amendment 3 – STATE GOVERNMENT REVENUE LIMITATION
Florida’s revenue is already limited by FL’s constitution by a formula using the income of Floridians. Amendment 3 would change the formula with one based on population changes and inflation. Since Florida’s population will likely always increase and since we will always have inflation as long as the Fed prints more money, the new proposed amendment would likely be less restrictive than the current formula. In the last four years, the average income of families in the United States has declined by over $4,000 per year; however, our population has grown, and we have experienced inflation. Perhaps this is why the FL Legislature proposed this amendment. Do you really believe they want to further limit their revenue? Really? If so, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
I oppose Amendment 3 and ask you to vote no on 3.
I oppose property tax since it violates a principle of God’s word, the requirement that the government protect property rights and insure that children are able to inherit property from their parents. With property taxes, you never really own your property because if you don’t pay your property tax, the government can take your property.
In Florida, the Save Our Home Amendment was passed to ensure that property values of homesteaded property can rise no more than 3% per year. While this provided some protection for existing home owners, it also created substantial differences in property values between property held over several years and newly aquired property, especially as property values rose substantially in the real estate boom. This led to some families paying thousands more in property taxes than their next door neighbors. Most of those differences have been wiped out by the real estate crash, but when real estate values do begin to rise again, we will see more of the inequity created by the Save Our Homes.
Amendment 4 will prohibit the taxable value of homesteaded property from rising in years where property tax doesn’t rise. If passed, this provision will created even greater inequities between long held homesteaded properties and newly aquired homesteaded and non-homesteaded/commercial property.
While Save Our Homes created inequity in private residences, the differences in the rise in property values between non-homesteaded and commercial property were even greater. To address this problem, Floridians passed an amendment in 2008 limiting growth in commercial property to 10% per year. Amendment 4 would change that percentage to 5%. While this will reduce the difference between the rise in property value between homesteaded and non-homesteaded/commercial property, inequities will still exist in rising markets between newly aquired property and long held property.
Another element of Amendment 4 will give 50% property tax breaks to first time home buyers with a first time home buyer being anyone who hasn’t owned a house in the last three years. This additional break would be reduced by 20% each year until the break expires after 5 years. This provision would create inequities in taxable property values and would artificially inflate property values making homes less affordable for those with limited incomes.
Since Amendment 4 does result in different property values for different property owners as opposed to treating all equal, it shouldn’t be a constitutional issue. That being said, we have passed several amendments in FL that have created inequity in property values. Some provisions of Amendment 4 would reduce those inequities while other provisions would create more inequity. For this reason, I oppose Amendment 4 and ask you to vote no on 4.
The best option would be to eliminate property taxes altogether. The next best solution would be to eliminate all limits on property value increases while leaving homestead exemption for homesteaded properties and to have property owners hold their legislators, county commissioners, city council members, and all other taxing authorities feet to the fire to keep property tax rates low. With Save Our Homes, there is little involvement from taxpayers as rising property values don’t affect existing home owners enough to warrant the effort to hold elected officials accountable.
I oppose Amendment 4 and ask you to vote no on 4.
Amendment 5 – STATE COURTS
Currently, the FL Bar Association polices judges. Amendment 5 would allow the FL legislature to police judges and would give the FL Senate the authority to confirm Supreme Court nominees. While Amendment 5 isn’t perfect, it should help reign in activist judges. I support Amendment 5 and ask you to vote yes on 5.
With a title like this, one might think that Amendment 6 prohibits tax funding of abortion; however, Amendment 6 doesn’t prohibit a single dime in abortion funding that is not already prohibited by state statute. Moreover, Amendment 6 would fund abortion in the cases of rape, incest, life and health of the mother, and where federal law requires tax funding of abortion (i.e. where a Medicaid patient elects to have an abortion). Amendment 6 also infers that the US and FL constitutions include a “right to abortion.” While the FL Supreme Court has issued opinions claiming this right is in our constitution, adding these words to our constitution would agree with them and actually add this “right” to our constitution while limiting it to the extent that it is in the US Constitution. While this limitation would allow certain abortion regulation laws, it could enshrine the “right to abortion” in our constitution.
If this amendment passes, it will do so because Floridians believe it actually prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion as proponents claim. If it fails, I encourage the legislature to resubmit the amendment without the exceptions and without inferring that our constitutions includes a “right” to abortion. Amending our constitution to protect innocent human life is of paramount importance and should be done in a way that does not undermine the end result we seek, the legal protection of every humans from conception to natural death. I oppose Amendment 6 and ask you to vote NO on 6.
For a more detailed argument on Amendment 6, view Personhood FL ProLife PAC’s position in opposition to Amendment 6.
I oppose Amendment 6 and ask you to vote NO on 6.
Amendment 8 – RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
From the title of Amendment 8, one might think this amendment deals with religious freedom; however, we already have religious freedom in the United States. What this amendment really does is provide tax funding for religious organizations that provide social services. The argument is that we’re already paying taxes for social services. Why not give that money to religious organizations to fund their programs.
While tax revenue for religious organizations is enticing, we must remember a few things:
- Religious organizations should look to God, not the government, as their provider. Organizations that depend on private donations run much more efficiently and do a better job fundraising than ones that receive government money. Moreover, dependence on God means that He can direct funds to the organizations He wills to exist. Government money may allow poorly run and ineffective organizations that would otherwise go under to continue and flourish.
- Tax funding always comes with strings attached. Do we really want for religious organizations to become dependent on government money? Wouldn’t they then be vulnerable if the government asked them to violate their conscience or prohibited them from certain tasks. Believe me, it will happen.
- Tax funding of religious organizations wouldn’t be limited to Bible believing organizations. Can you envision a radical Muslim synagogue receiving tax money for their work? How would that make you feel? Remember, this is your tax dollars at work.
- Wouldn’t the best option be to STOP taxing Floridians for social services and allow organizations to receive their funding from private donations. This would allow all organizations to experience the efficiencies and excellence required to operate on donations and would weed out inefficient and ineffective organizations.
I oppose Amendment 8 and recommend you vote NO on 8.
For a more complete analyses of Amendment 8, read KrisAnne Hall’s Trusting Government Over God. The Florida Family Policy Council has issues an article Responding to KrisAnne Hall; however, I believe that they fail to address the main concerns Hall raises.
I oppose Amendment 8 and recommend you vote NO on 8.
The military and law enforcement are two of the few legitimate functions of government having support and authority in both the US Constitution and the Bible. I do full support implementing this exemption; however, since this amendment applies to a specific group of people and not the general population, this discount should not be applied through a constitutional amendment but through the legislature. (See Amendment 2). I oppose Amendment 9 but call on the FL Legislature to pass legislation granting this exemption.
Amendment 10 – TANGIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION
Tangible personal property tax is a tax on items a business owns. The business already paid sales tax on the items when purchased, but the government believes it has the authority to require those businesses to pay taxes on those same items every year they own them. This type of tax isn’t authorized in the Bible. While Amendment 10 will not eliminate personal property tax, it will greatly reduce the number of Florida businesses who pay the tax; therefore, I support Amendment 10 and ask you to vote yes on 10.
As stated early, I oppose property tax since it allows the seizure of the property of those who don’t pay in direct violation of scripture which prohibits taking someone’s property. (Deuteronomy 19:14) We should especially protect the property rights of low income seniors even though doing so would mean that all others pay more in property taxes. I do full support implementing this exemption; however, since this amendment applies to a specific group of people and not the general population, this discount should not be applied through a constitutional amendment but through the legislature. (See Amendment 2). I oppose Amendment 11 but call on the FL Legislature to pass legislation granting this exemption. Vote no on 11.
The first universities in the United States were founded by Christians for the purpose of educating pastors in the gospel of Jesus Christ. How did we get to the place where the government now runs most of our universities, provides tax dollars to universities, provides financing for students, and regulates universities? This amendment would create a new government bureaucracy. I oppose Amendment 12 and ask you to vote no on 12.