Amendments affect homestead exemptions and other amendments

Part 2 in a series

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On the November ballot, Floridians will vote on two amendments that would make changes to special exemptions to property taxes on homestead properties and one amendment that would make it more difficult to pass future amendments.

Florida voters will consider six amendments to the state’s constitution on the November ballot. A super-majority of 60% is required to amend the constitution.

Amendment 4 – Vote twice on amendments
Amendment 4 would make it harder to amend the Florida Constitution. Currently, amendments can be placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature or by citizen initiative. To place a constitutional amendment on the ballot by citizen initiative, proponents must collect signatures equal to 8 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last presidential election. For the 2020 election, that meant 766,200 signatures.

The rules for amending the state’s constitution were already amended once. In 2006, voters approve an amendment to require a 60% super-majority vote to approve future amendments. Amendment 4 would require voters approve new changes to the constitution in two separate elections before the amendment would become law.

• Vote “yes” to require new amendments be approved in two successive general elections.
• Vote “no” to keep the amendment process as it currently exists.

Supporters of the change claim the current process makes it too easy to amend the state’s constitution, and that voters are sometimes confused by the wording on the ballot. Once an amendment is in place, it takes another amendment to change or remove it. Voting on it twice would make it more difficult to change the constitution. They also point out that in the past, some items placed on the ballot by amendment (such as a rule about the confinement of pregnant pigs) are not matters that should be in the constitution.

Opponents of the change argue that requiring two votes will make it too difficult and too expensive for most citizen initiatives to pass an amendment.

The amendment is supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the sponsoring organization, Keep Our Constitution Clean. The amendment is opposed by the Florida League of Women Voters, League of Women Voters of Florida, the AFL-CIO, the ACLU, Common Cause, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Florida Conservation Voters, Service Employees International Union, Organize Florida, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Florida People’s Advocacy Center, Florida Center For Fiscal and Economic Policy, Floridians for Freedom PAC, SEIU 1199. Florida C3 Civic Engagement Table and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

Amendment 5 – Transfer of Homestead Exemption
Amendment 5 proposes a change to the state Constitution, effective date Jan. 1, 2021, to increase, from two years to three years, the period of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead if the property owner moves.

• Vote “Yes” to increase the period to transfer Save-Our-Homes benefits to thre years.
• Vote “No” to keep the law as it is, with a two-year limit to transfer Save-Our-Homes benefits.

The Save Our Homes Amendment of the Constitution was approved by Florida voters in 1992 and went into effect in 1995. This amendment places a limitation of 3% on any annual assessment increases on the taxable property value on homestead properties in Florida. (This does not apply to improvements of the properties.) The goal of Save-Our-Homes was to protect longtime property owners from spikes in taxes due to rising property values around in their neighborhoods.

Proponents say the change would fix a potential pitfall for portability because homestead exemptions take effect on Jan. 1, meaning the sale of a home late in the year would effectively reduce the portability from two years to little more than 1 year and a few days.

Opponents say this change would negatively impact city and county governments and school districts, which rely on property taxes, and could reduce property tax revenue available for funding local schools and other services like police, fire and infrastructure. Opponents also say it would limit the ability of local governments to control their budgets based on their county needs.

The Florida Legislature supports this amendment. It was placed on the ballot by the legislature.

The Florida League of Women Voters opposes this amendment.

Amendment 6 – Tax discount for widowed spouses of veterans
In 2006, Florida voters approved an amendment that allows disabled veterans age 65 years or older to take a discount on their homestead property tax equal in proportion to the amount of their disability, as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Currently, this discount is only in effect for the lifetime of the disabled veteran. Amendment 6 would provide the additional homestead exemption to the surviving spouses of disabled veterans. The discount would be in effect until the spouse remarries, sells, or otherwise disposes of the homestead property.

• Vote “yes” to extended the extra property tax exemption currently given to disabled veterans to their surviving spouses.
• Vote “no” to keep the law as it is.

The amendment is supported by the Florida Legislature. It was placed on the ballot by the legislature. Proponents argue extending the discount would help disabled veterans’ spouses keep their property taxes lower.

The amendment is opposed by the Florida League of Women Voters, whose position is: “no tax sources or revenue should be specified, limited, exempted, or prohibited in the Constitution.”

Editor’s note: Sources for this story included publications by the Florida League of Women Voters.

To read Part 1 in this series, CLICK HERE.

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