Florida 2012: A guide to the amendments - FOX 13 News

Florida 2012: A guide to the amendments

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Voting in tomorrow's election will be no easy task. Florida's ballot is long – really long. But we've made it easier on you. Bookmark this, print it out, and know your ballot with our guide to the amendments.

Here's an explanation of the constitutional amendments that will be on Florida's 2012 general election ballot.

Amendment 1

Amendment 1 is largely symbolic and would have no real effect at this point. It would add language to the Florida Constitution stating that no person, employer or healthcare provider can be forced to participate in a health care system. But when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the individual health care mandate in the President's health care plan is constitutional, it took the teeth out of this Florida amendment.

Amendment 2: Homestead exemption for combat-injured vets

Amendment 2 would give an extra homestead exemption to combat-injured veterans, 65 or older, who were not Florida residents at the time of their injury. Currently, it only goes to those who were Florida residents when they enlisted. A "yes" vote could add another 74,000 wounded veterans to the extra homestead.

Amendment 3

Some battle-lines have been drawn over Amendment 3. On one side, some business organizations say to vote "yes" on Amendment 3. On the other side, teachers, police and firefighters unions say to vote "no" on 3.

If you vote "yes" on Amendment 3, it means you favor a lower cap on the amount of money the state is allowed to take in from taxes and fees. If passed, it could slow down the overall growth of government. If you vote "no" on Amendment 3, you would be voting to leave the cap as it is now -- it's never been exceeded. Those against 3 say this amendment would negatively impact public education, the elderly and the poor.

Amendment 4

At 700 words, this in the longest proposed amendment. It would reduce taxes for first-time home buyers by up to 50 percent in some cases. It would also reduce taxes for owners of second homes, small businesses, and big corporations. One of its provisions would reduce the cap on non-homesteaded property tax assessments from 10 percent to five percent.

Supporters say it would create thousands of new jobs and boost the troubled housing market. Opponents say it would cost local governments more than a billion dollars in lost revenue over the next several years and force them to cut services. They also say it would shift more of the tax burden to longtime homeowners.

For it: Florida Association of Realtors
Against it: Florida League of Cities

Amendment 5

Amendment 5 deals with the powers of the courts and the legislature. If you vote "yes" on Amendment 5, that means you want the Florida State Senate to have confirmation power over state Supreme Court appointees, and you also want to allow the House to have access to investigation files when a judge is being investigated.

If you vote "no" on Amendment 5, it would mean that you want things to stay as they are regarding the powers of the courts and the legislature.

Amendment 6

Amendment 6 deals with abortion and privacy. If you vote "yes," you would be saying that public funds will not be used for abortion, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the mother's life. That language mirrors current federal law, but it goes farther. By voting "yes," you would be saying that Florida's right to privacy will not apply to abortions.

Here's the key: The state constitution actually gives Floridians a broader right to privacy than the U.S. Constitution. Courts have used that to throw out stricter abortion laws, like requiring parental consent for a minor to have an abortion. A "yes" vote could clear the way for some of those stricter laws.

In the simplest terms, if you favor more restrictions on abortion, vote "yes." If you don't want tighter restrictions on abortion, vote "no."

Amendment 8

Amendment 8 deals with taxpayer money and religious institutions. If you vote "yes," you would want to allow taxpayer money to be used for programs conducted by religious institutions. Supporters say programs like prison ministries or church-based after school programs may deserve funding, and the current ban on using public money discriminates against religious institutions.

You would vote "no" on Amendment 8 if you don't want public money spent on programs sponsored by religious institutions.

Amendment 9: Spouses of those killed in action and first responders

Amendment 9 would give a tax break to the spouses of military personnel or first responders killed in the line of duty. It would allow local governments to eliminate most property taxes for those people. It's estimated it would only cost local governments about $600,000 statewide.

Amendment 10

This amendment would expand the tax exemption for tangible personal property for businesses. It would give businesses an extra tax break for equipment and things like computers, appliances, and farm machinery.

Currently, there's a tax exemption for the first $25,000 worth of equipment. If passed, Amendment 10 would increase the exemption to the first $50,000.

Supporters say it would bring needed tax relief to small businesses and help the economy. Opponents say it will strip millions of dollars of revenue from local governments, forcing cuts in service.

For it: Florida Chamber of Commerce
Against it: League of Women Voters of Florida

Amendment 11: Low-income seniors

Amendment 11 would slash property taxes for some low-income senior citizens. To qualify, the homeowner would have to be 65 years old, have lived in the home for 25 years, and have an income of less than about $27,000 dollars.

Amendment 12

Amendment 12 involves some politics surrounding state universities and the Board of Governors, which is in charge of them.

If you vote "yes" on Amendment 12, it means you want the state to create a new council of university student presidents, from which the student representative to the board of governors will be chosen. A "no" vote means you want to keep it the way it is.

Florida State University has objected to the way it is now, and hasn't participated in years. That's because membership dues are now required to be eligible to send a student representative to the Board of Governors. A "yes" vote on 12 would get rid of the dues and Florida State would likely come back.

All of the amendments require a 60 percent majority to pass.

LINK: Click here for summaries, sponsors and the full text of each amendment.

Fox 13's Lloyd Sowers contributed to this report.  

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