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    Politics in St. Johns

  • Florida’s Proposed 2020 Constitutional Amendments Explained

    On November 3, voters in Florida have an opportunity to directly alter the state's constitution up to six times this election cycle with six amendments on the ballot.

    These constitutional amendments include four introduced by citizen initiatives and two others by the Florida Legislature. An amendment passes when it receives 60% approval from voters.

    One amendment this year, Amendment 4, tweaks this very process by which the state's constitution can be changed.


    Florida Amendment 1

    Title: Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections

    Summary: “This amendment provides that only United States Citizens who are at least eighteen years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election.”

    What does this mean? The Florida Constitution, Article VI, Section 2, currently states “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.”

    Instead of “every citizen,” the text would read, “only a citizen.”

    Noncitizen voting already is illegal in Florida.

    What if I vote yes? You support a change to the Florida Constitution that states “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida.

    What if I vote no? You do not support amending the Florida Constitution, so the existing language of “every citizen” stays the same.


    Florida Amendment 2 (SJC Chamber Opposes)

    Title: Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage

    Summary: “Raises minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.”

    What does this mean? The Florida Constitution, Article X, Section 24, would be amended to increase the existing state minimum wage from $8.56 an hour to $10 an hour starting Sept. 30, 2021. It then will increase by $1 each year until reaching $15 an hour in September 2026. Afterward, increases in minimum wage will be adjusted for inflation.

    What if I vote yes? You support changing the Florida Constitution to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by September 2026.

    What if I vote no? You do not support a change to the minimum wage, so the current minimum wage of $8.56 an hour remains unchanged.


    Florida Amendment 3

    Title: All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet

    Summary: “Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held, and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.”

    What does this mean? The Florida Constitution, Article VI, Section 5, would be amended to include a section C, essentially changing the state’s primary-election system from a closed election restricted to party-affiliated voters to one that allows people to participate regardless of party and the top two candidates go on to the general election. This is considered a “top-two primary.”

    Currently, a voter must be registered with a political party, such as the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, to vote in a primary election.

    The Florida Democratic Party and the Florida Republican Party oppose the amendment.

    Three states use this sort of primary system: California, Nebraska and Washington.

    What if I vote yes? You support changing Florida’s Constitution to create an open system for primary elections for state legislatures, the governor and cabinet members.

    What if I vote no? You do not support changing the state’s closed primary system, so the current system remains: Voters who are affiliated with a party only can vote in their party’s primary election.


    Florida Amendment 4

    Title: Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments

    Summary: “Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.”

    What does that mean? The Florida Constitution, Article XI, Sections 5 and 7, would be amended to change how Florida currently amends its constitution. Follow this: Currently, when an amendment gets on the ballot, it only can be approved with 60% of voters in support. If it reaches that threshold, it gets added to the Florida Constitution.

    This Amendment would essentially repeat the process over again. If Amendment 4 passes, the 60% threshold still stands, and the process follows: An amendment gains voter approval and is placed on the next statewide ballot in a general election. If the amendment gets 60% again, it’s added to the constitution.

    What if I vote yes? You support changing the amendment process in Florida: If an amendment to change the Florida Constitution earns 60% support, it appears on the next general election ballot for a second vote. With another 60% in support, the amendment passes.

    What if I vote no? You do not support changing the current amendment process, so once an amendment gets to the ballot, it is approved with 60% voter support and that's it.


    Florida Amendment 5

    Title: Limitation on Homestead Assessments

    Summary: “Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective date January 1, 2021, to increase, from 2 years to 3 years, the period of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.”

    What does that mean? The Florida Constitution Article VII, Section 4; Article XII, would be amended to allow a person to transfer “Save Our Home” benefits within three years instead of two. The Florida House of Representatives unanimously approved putting the issue to the voters.

    What if I vote yes? You support homeowners in having up to three years to transfer “Save Our Home” benefits to a new property.

    What if I vote no? You do not support a change to the Constitution, and there remains a two-year limit to transfer “Save Our Home” benefits.


    Florida Amendment 6

    Title: Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities

    Summary: “Provides that the homestead property tax discount for certain veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities carries over to such veteran's surviving spouse who holds legal or beneficial title to, and who permanently resides on, the homestead property, until he or she remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property. The discount may be transferred to a new homestead property of the surviving spouse under certain conditions. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2021.”

    What does that mean? The Florida Constitution, Article VII, Section 6; Article XII, would be amended to allow a veteran’s surviving spouse to receive an existing homestead property tax discount. If he or she sells the property and moves into a new home, a discount not exceeding the previous discount carries over. It would not apply if he or she remarries.

    Florida lawmakers unanimously approved putting the amendment to the voters.

    What if I vote yes? You support allowing the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran to receive a homestead property tax discount.

    What if I vote no? You do not support a change to the Florida Constitution, and a homestead property tax discount would not be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.

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