Constitutional Amendments on the General Election Ballot

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Constitutional Amendments on the General Election Ballot

Mon, 10/19/2020 - 19:41
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by ROCCO MAGLIO
[email protected]

The Constitution of Florida is intended to establish rules for the government and as such generally does not get into specifics of regulations. Often the amendments intend to add very specific requirements to the constitution that may quickly become burdensome or outdated. This is why the legislature has continually made it more difficult to pass amendments to the state constitution.

For the sake of saving space, please refer to the sample ballot below for the exact wording of each amendment.

Amendment 1: Changes the wording of who can vote from Every citizen to Only a citizen. 

The wording change in context is from, "Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered." to  "Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered."
This change appears to be a reaction to other states where people who are not citizens including undocumented individuals have been allowed to vote in municipal and school district elections. Federal law only allows citizens to vote in federal elections. Those in favor of this amendment say that it is necessary to establish exactly who can vote in the election. The opponents say that the wording change does not mean anything.

Amendment 2: Sets in place increases that raise the state minimum wage to $15 by 2026.

Increasing the minimum wage has been a contentious issue. Those in favor of raising the minimum wage say that it will allow those earning the minimum wage to earn a decent living. Some of those against it say that it will cause many small businesses to close, use less workers, or raise their prices. Others are concerned that setting raises in the constitution means that there will be no way to account for economic setbacks like COVID-19, since the raises are scheduled through 2026. They say that the minimum wage should be set by the legislature every year.

Amendment 3: Establishes an open primary system where the top two primary vote getters face off in the general election.

The supporters of this amendment feel that this will lessen the power of political parties and it will also allow voters to choose the primary candidate that they most agree with regardless of party. The opponents say that this can lead to either one party choice in the general election or members of a party sabotaging a different party by attempting to vote for their less electable candidates.

Amendment 4: Requires voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved twice.

Last year almost all the constitutional amendments were passed. Proponents of this change say that constitutional amendments are major changes to the state government and therefore should be difficult. The opponents of the change say that constitutional amendments are direct democracy at work. 

Amendment 5: Increases the period during which a person may transfer "Save Our Homes" benefits to a new homestead property from two years to three years.

This major "Save Our Homes" benefit caps the increase of the assessed value of a house. If the house increases in value over a short time, the cap will prevent the homeowners’ taxes from drastically increasing. If housing values were increasing quickly a long-time homeowner would only be paying taxes on a fraction of their home's current market value. This meant that the homeowner could not purchase a new home of equal market value without incurring a substantial property tax increase. This benefit was made transferable to allow long-time homeowners to change homes without incurring the property tax increase. Amendment 5 will increase the amount of time property owners have to use the Save Our Homes benefit cap when selling their home and buying a new home. Proponents will say that it allows homeowners a little longer to find the right home after they sell their house. Opponents will say that if you allow some people to pay less taxes other people will have to pay more taxes or there will be less money for the state government. They say that this is a case of the government picking winners and losers.

Amendment 6: Allows a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran

The proponents of the amendment say that the property tax discount transferring to the spouse of the surviving veteran benefits is the right thing to do since the spouse also sacrificed for their country. Opponents will say that if you allow some people to pay less taxes other people will have to pay more taxes or there will be less money for the state government.
 

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