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Voters give thumbs down to constitutional amendments

Florida constitution
Jennie McKeon
/
WUWF Public Media

Florida voters late Tuesday appeared to have rejected three proposed constitutional amendments that would have provided property-tax breaks and eliminated the state’s Constitution Revision Commission.

The proposals, put on the ballot by the Legislature, needed support from 60% of voters to pass. As of 10:45 p.m., all were below that threshold after receiving little attention during an election dominated by races for governor and a U.S. Senate seat.

One of the measures, which appeared on the ballot as Amendment 1, sought to prevent properties’ assessed values from increasing because of improvements aimed at combating flooding.

The other proposed tax break, which appeared as Amendment 3, sought to expand the homestead property-tax exemption for teachers, first responders and military members.

Meanwhile, what appeared as Amendment 2 sought to repeal the Constitution Revision Commission, a panel that meets every 20 years and has the power to propose ballot measures. The commission drew controversy in 2018 because of some of its proposals.

The Constitution Revision Commission repeal proposal received about 54% support Tuesday, according to preliminary results posted on the state Division of Elections website.

The tax proposals drew more support but did not appear likely to reach the 60% threshold.

Amendment 1 was aimed largely at helping property owners who elevate all or parts of their homes.

Under the proposal, such improvements would not have been considered in determining assessed values. A 2021 Senate staff analysis said the proposal would have reduced local government property-tax revenues by $5.8 million during the 2023-2024 fiscal year, with the amount growing to $25.1 million annually.

Amendment 3 would have increased the homestead exemption for teachers, law-enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency-medical technicians, paramedics, child-welfare services professionals and active-duty members of the military and Florida National Guard.

The change would have saved $80.9 million for the targeted property owners next fiscal year, with the annual savings growing to $93.6 million in five years, according to projections.

Under current law, homeowners can qualify for homestead exemptions on the first $25,000 of the appraised value of property. They also can qualify for $25,000 homestead exemptions on the value between $50,000 and $75,000. Any higher property value is taxable.

Under the proposal, homeowners in the targeted professions could have received an additional $50,000 exemption, which would have applied to the property value between $100,000 and $150,000.

The 37-member Constitution Revision Commission drew the ire of lawmakers in 2018 after it placed a series of issues on the ballot that touched on issues ranging from new ethics standards for public officials to a ban on greyhound racing.

The commission’s members are appointed by the governor, legislative leaders, the Supreme Court chief justice and attorney general. In part, the 2018 controversy centered on it creating “bundled” ballot proposals that tied together seemingly unrelated topics, such as one proposal to ban offshore oil drilling and indoor vaping.

Jim Saunders - News Service of Florida