Summary of Florida Constitutional Amendments 2008 Ballot

When I read my ballot, I shook my head and could not believe the lengthy nature of the different initiatives. So, I have been searching on the web for various research sites for information on the Amendments. I list them below, based on the document from Florida League of Cities. For clarity’s sake, I am also including the Miami Herald’s and Sun-Sentinel’s endorsements.

I also received a great link for explanations on the Amendments from a commenter – which I am now including in the post. Be sure to look at the Flash display on each Amendment at the Collins Center.

Amendment 1: Relating to Property Rights/Ineligible Aliens

Summary: Amendment 1 would delete provisions from the Florida Constitution that authorize the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship. This would essentially be a repeal of the “Alien Land” law originally put in place to restrict immigrants from owning property. Originally inserted into the constitution to affect Chinese and Asian immigrants, Florida is one of the last states to repeal such a law. If passed by the electors, this proposal would go into effect January 6, 2009.
Collins Center for Public Policy: click for new window
Supporters: Organization of Chinese Americans

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT
Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

Amendment 2: Florida Marriage Protection Amendment

Summary: Amendment 2 would place into the Florida Constitution language that defines “marriage” as “the legal union of only one man and one woman.” The amendment would further prohibit the state from recognizing any other legal union that is treated as marriage or the equivalent of such a relationship.
Collins Center for Public Policy: click for new window
Supporters: Florida4Marriage, Florida Family Association
Opponents: Florida Red and Blue, Florida ACLU, AFL-CIO, NAACP of Florida, Unitarian Church, Florida Professional Firefighters, and generally the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered community

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: AGAINST

Florida law already prohibits what this amendment seeks to ban: gay marriage. So the only thing it would do is enshrine discrimination in our state constitution. This amendment is mean-spirited and misguided.

Sun-Sentinel: AGAINST

This is the so-called “marriage protection” amendment. It is not, however, about protecting or strengthening marriages. It is about creating a very narrow definition of marriage to exclude gay and lesbian unions from ever being deemed as equal to heterosexual marriages.

Amendment 3: Improvements to Real Property

Summary: Amendment 3 authorizes the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit the consideration of the following in assessing the value of real property used for residential purposes: any change or improvement made for the purpose of improving the property’s resistance to wind damage; or the installation of a renewable energy source device. The proposal also repeals a current Florida constitutional provision relating to a renewable energy source property tax exemption. If passed by the electors, this proposal takes effect January 1, 2009.
Collins Center for Public Policy: click for new window
Supporters: Property insurers, businesses that support renewable energy

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

This amendment would prevent county property appraisers from increasing tax assessments on residential-property owners who protect their homes against windstorm damage or install renewable-energy devices. When homes are strengthened against hurricanes or improve their energy efficiency, the entire community benefits — not just the homeowners. So it is good public policy to avoid penalizing homeowners with higher taxes for the changes.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

It is in Florida’s best interest for its residents to invest money — and a lot of it in some circumstances — to protect their property against hurricanes. And to invest money to produce renewable energy in their homes.

There aren’t many better ways to insure the state’s sound financial standing than for Florida buildings to be as storm-resistant as possible. And for Floridians to generate as much of their own internal power, too.

Yet, it makes no sense to ask Floridians to make these investments and then potentially increase their property taxes for doing so. That’s what can happen if those investments are deemed improvements that increase property values.

Amendment 4: Property Tax Exemption of Perpetually Conserved Land

Summary: Amendment 4 requires the Legislature to provide by general law for an ad valorem tax exemption for real property dedicated in perpetuity for conservation purposes. Further, the proposal requires land used for conservation purposes to be classified and assessed solely on the basis of character or use for the purposes of ad valorem taxation. If passed by the electors, the proposal shall be implemented by January 1, 2010.
Collins Center for Public Policy: click for new window
Supporters: Agricultural interests, large land owners, environmental interests

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT
Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

Essentially, this amendment would create a tax exemption for land an owner promises not to develop and pave the way for a new land classification under the term “conservation” that would get a tax reduction much like the breaks agricultural lands get.

Amendment 6: Assessment of Working Waterfronts

Summary: Amendment 6 provides for the assessment of working waterfront property based upon the property’s current use. Current uses of property are: land used predominantly for commercial fishing purposes; land that is accessible to the public and used for vessel launches into waters that are navigable; marinas and dry stacks that are open to the public; and water-dependent marine manufacturing facilities, commercial fishing facilities, and marine vessel construction and repair facilities and their support activities. The Legislature may, by general law, establish conditions and limitations and reasonable definitions to implement the proposal. If passed by the electors, the proposal shall first apply to assessments for tax years beginning January 1, 2010.
Collins Center for Public Policy: click for new window
Supporters: Commercial fishing industry, owners of marinas, marine construction interests

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

Owners of marinas, boat ramps, dry-docks, commercial-fishing operations and the like are under tremendous pressure to sell or convert their property to condominium or other high-end retail uses. That’s because most property appraisers assess property at its ”highest and best use” instead of at the property’s ”current use” value.

As a result, working-waterfront properties are disappearing around the state, changing the nature and character of communities and of Florida’s identity. This amendment would partially correct the problem by requiring that certain working-waterfront properties be assessed at their current-use value.

The amendment should, but doesn’t, include other waterfront properties such as small hotels, restaurants and shops. That will have to be addressed later.

Even still, the amendment addresses an urgent need.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

Because state law is ambiguous, it appears the best way to resolve the dispute is through a constitutional amendment to the supreme law of the state. So, here it is.

Amendment 8: Local Option Community College Funding

Summary: Amendment 8 requires the Legislature to authorize countywide local option sales taxes to supplement funding for public community colleges. The tax may not be levied unless approved by the electors of each county served by the public community college; requiring voter approval to levy the tax; providing that approved taxes will sunset after five years and may be reauthorized by the voters. The tax must sunset after five years and may be reauthorized by the electors.
Collins Center for Public Policy: click for new window
Supporters: Commercial fishing industry, owners of marinas, marine construction interests

Editorial Opinions

Miami Herald: SUPPORT

If approved, Amendment 8 requires the Legislature to allow counties to impose a local-option sales tax to supplement community-college funding. The measure explicitly requires voter approval at a later date before the tax could be levied. It would sunset after five years, with renewal dependent on another local vote.

The crucial word is ”supplement.” Miami Dade College and others like it depend on a funding formula from the state for their operating expenses, but some experts fear the state would be tempted to shed some of its responsibility if local funds become available. Another concern is the burden of an increased sales tax. Local residents already support institutions like Jackson Memorial Hospital and the transportation system by way of sales taxes.

This amendment would give voters in Miami-Dade and other counties with community colleges a chance to support institutions that serve their communities well.

Sun-Sentinel: SUPPORT

If approved, this amendment would allow the electorate in each county to determine, via a vote, whether to enact a one-cent increase in the sales tax to fund community colleges.

Whether that would ever happen is questionable, but it’s a debate worth having. Community colleges play a large, and growing, role in preparing and maintaining the state’s work force. There is an argument to be made that they need a dedicated funding source in addition to state revenue money.

Sure, voters might be skeptical that this will turn out that way. And some voters are understandably loath to raising taxes further.

But that’s a call that should be up to voters. Amendment 8 would permit such a debate and decision.

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14 Responses to Summary of Florida Constitutional Amendments 2008 Ballot

  1. RD says:

    The vast majority of Floridians want to make sure that marriage continues to be defined as one man and one woman. Amendment 2 will not deprive anyone of rights but rather protects the institution of marriage. A vote for Amendment 2 is a vote for the future of Florida’s families.

  2. Sanford says:

    @RightDemocrat – I am not sure if this is true or not, especially since polls may say otherwise. I appreciate your point-of-view and willing to accept your feedback. But realize that this is about a Democracy and how the community will vote. I look forward to the results on November 4th.

  3. Capn Jimbo says:

    Since there is already a law on the books, this amendment is simply an attempt to prevent the courts or people from revisiting this issue. If RD really believed the majority of people want to protect “the integrity of marriage” he’d leave things be.

    Truth is that most people could care less about this non-issue. These stupid amendments are usually inserted to promote ultra conservative votes by people who would rather deny poverty, lack of healthcare, financial ruin and endless war to protect “the integrity of marriage”.

    Get real folks – neither my marriage nor yours is in any way affected by what other loving people choose to do in their private lives. Grow up.

  4. Brenda Taggart says:

    “No man is an island”. We aren’t ostriches that live with our heads buried in the sand. What we do definitely affects other people by our example, especially with our children. Let us really get realistic and look at the world we live in. It is changing for the worst. Values aren’t what they used to be – we need to return to our traditional values. When I was in school 40 years ago, running in the hallway and chewing gum were the violations. Now it is carrying guns, using drugs, and violence.

  5. Sanford says:

    @Brenda – I am confused. I was in school over 20 years ago, and the same issue you are worried about are the ones I faced as well. I do not think that our values have diminished, I think that we have work to do to grow within the changing world we live in.

    The framers of the Constitution knew that the country would not be the same 10 years from their signing, let along 230+ years later. They knew we needed a malleable structure that would uphold the basic principles, and allow for change. Our values are the same in terms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – the challenge is coming up with new and innovative ways on how to bring ourselves to these truths in the coming future.

    One more thing: if you look back 100 years ago, there were discussions – much of this type – of how the country was changing, not for the good – but for the worst – and how we needed to return to traditional values. Society evolves – every religion recognizes it with their various mechanisms (in Judiasm, there is the rabbinical court of the Senhedrin; in Roman Catholism, there is the Vactican, etc) and allows for the principles to adapt to the cultural mores.

    America is an ideal and a vision of freedom and democracy. The government can only do so much – we have it within ourselves to do so much more.

  6. Chris says:

    Thank you so much for your help with the election choices. I still needed more information on #3, and I found another site that was very helpful to me. I wanted to share it here in case it helps others
    thanks, Chris

  7. Tina Blair says:

    I’m voting Yes for No. 2 because the institution of marriage was originally created by God and I really don’t think he is going to shower everyone with blessings that votes no and think that we need to “grow up” and “accept that society is changing”.

    The problems with this country has to do with the fact that no one fears God anymore and if you don’t believe there’s a God, then I hope he has mercy on your soul.

    I am a sinner like everyone else in this world and only God is our judge and he gave us the rules thousands of years ago. We have free will, of course, but the bible says there is a price to pay if we don’t follow those rules. (Sodom and Gormora come to mind) Some of you may think it’s just a story and Blah, blah, blah. Go ahead and keep it up. Ignore God. Be defiant. I’m just a messenger, not the judge.

    I’ll be praying that this passes and if it doesn’t, I’ll be begging God to have mercy on our souls. You can go ahead and call me dramatic, bible thumper, religious zealic, it won’t change the fact that God gets angry when we deliberately defy him. The choice has and always will be each individual. Marriage was meant to be kept sacred, vote yes to keep it that way.

  8. Sanford says:

    @Tina Blair – I respect your point of view and realize that there are different views on all issues. I love G-d and respect him and his teachings. But I also respect the love that people have for each other – and think that the separation of church and state is extremely important.

    Our country was founded on that basic principle – and every time we attempt to apply religious principles to it, we blur the line between leadership on the earth and our personal relationship with G-d. The Puritans and other religious groups came to America to form a world where they could practice their religion with freedom and without the oppression of a state-run, state-sanctioned church.

    Whenever we apply these religious principles, we tend to cheapen the fabric that is America. And that is something I (personally) do not agree with.

    In the case of same-sex couples, the issue they face is that in cases of death or sickness, they do not have the same rights as other people within our society – especially in issues of property and medical decisions. The concept of marriage as a civil union, rather than a religious event has been solid throughout most of the world – but in our country, we continue to blur the lines.

    There is a reason why we go to City Hall to get our marriage license – because we are forming a civil union to state that two people are working together to create a life together, and that each other is responsible for the other – especially in civil matters. In the Jewish faith, we sign a kituba which is our agreement to each other and our affirmation with G-d. In that matter, in the face of G-d, each has to face our maker. And if our choices are not appropriate, then we suffer our fate – in his Hands.

    Please – keep the separation of church and state. That is one of the major tenants of what keeps America the beacon of hope throughout the world. Our freedoms are about accepting and cherishing the differences of others and the ability to add their strengths to our own. I am confident that my relationship with G-d will not suffer for this.

    I pray you feel the same way.

  9. Amber says:

    I agree with Sanford. You can’t take religion out of one part of the government and put it back in where you see fit. It doesn’t work like that. Either Church and State are together or they are apart. You can’t have it both ways. Maybe some would like it in but with our country being the melting pot that it is you can’t include the bible or we would have to include every different religion and we can’t make everyone happy. I for one voted NO for amendment 2 because I feel God loves all people and what one chooses to do with their life is their business and no one else’s.

    I too am eagerly awaiting the outcome of the election, especially the presidential and amendment 2 outcome.

  10. Rottiedawg says:

    Sanford – I find it interesting that you purposely omitted the complete spelling of God. Not that it means much to the discussion, but it sets a tone. Unless you are Jewish, then I understand and mean no disrespect.

    I too respect your opinion on this matter, but I disagree. Every decision we make in life is based on some type of principle. Religious beliefs probably make up the majority of our daily decisions.

    If you study the background basis for the writing of the Constitution through the personal notes and diaries of the authors, you will see that their faith was monumental in their writings of our Constitution. It is our very foundation. One Nation Under God.

    If you believe in the Bible exclusively as God prescribes, than you should disagree with same sex marriages. I know God does, he even says so.

    Again, if you believe in the Bible (Old and/or New Testament) than you will suffer the consequences for even supporting this idea, even if you do not participate and have a very loving man/woman relationship, you still are actively accepting it by defending it.

    True, times are changing and more ideas are becoming accepted and tollerated. But look at our society and nation as a whole. Values are shot, teen pregnancy is up, divorce is the norm, corruption and murder barely make the news anymore; but hey, it’s all good right?

    Really though, I respect your opinion as we all have one. But if we are the beacon of hope throughout the world, than I think the world is in serious trouble.

  11. Jen says:

    On amendment 2, you crazy bible thumpers should know that this effects others besides people in gay relationships. There is a thing out there called domestic partnership if you vote No you will be taking health insurance away from people (not just gays). I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that. The government has no place in this matter at all!!

  12. Amy says:

    The concept of marriage was formedby God. Not man or government. It is a sacred union between a man and a woman. If you truely love God and his teachings, you would NEVER be willing to accept anything other than how he created us.

    Man is self righteous and prideful and believes he has the right to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. That is why our country and world is where it is today. Our Fore Fathers we God fearing Christian men with morals. We should learn a thing or two from them and keep God in the running of the country instead of trying to find reasons to get Him out. This country was founded on God fearing principles for a reason and thats how it should stay.

    I pray God has mercy on the prideful, self-righteous people who want nothig more than to control this country and all the people in it…

  13. Kayleigh says:

    Our forefathers were not Christian, you might wanna do a little research, Amy.

    Also, you’re still missing the point that Voting No on 2 is protecting heterosexual people in relationships who live together, but are not married.

  14. Sanford says:

    @Rottiedawg – sorry, your post got labeled as spam, and I just caught it.

    Yes, I am Jewish, which is my rationale for not spelling out His name.

    And, I am not in support of same-sex marriages – but I do believe in the concept of civil unions and the protections that domestic partnerships should have. The idea of defining marriage as is in Amendment 2 means we are applying a religious definition on a civil contract between two people.

    When a same-sex partner has their partner unable to execute their wishes in the hospital or in the face of the courts, that I think is unfair. This, as well as many other circumstances that cause people who choose not to marry but live with each other should be allowed to work on behalf of each other. Heterosexual civil unions occur as well – why is the sexuality of a person the factor that limits their rights?

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