Constitutional Amendments: What You Need to Know
November's ballot includes six proposed constitutional amendments, from a ban on gay marriage to a tax break for working waterfronts. Here's a guide.
›Amendment 1: Repeal of Alien Land Law
›2: Gay Marriage Ban
›3: Hurricane and Energy Tax Break
›4: Conservation Land Tax Break
›6: Working Waterfront Tax Break
›8: New Sales Tax for Community College Districts
The 2008 presidential race isn’t the only high-stakes political battle playing out in Florida this fall. On Nov. 4, voters will face a lineup of six ballot initiatives that cover everything from gay marriage to creating tax breaks for marinas and conservation lands. Each measure will require 60% approval by voters to pass.
Only one of the measures originated in the state Legislature: Amendment 1, a proposal to delete an obsolete provision in the state Constitution that allows the Legislature to prohibit property ownership by “aliens ineligible for citizenship.” Amendment 2, a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, is the only proposed amendment that came from a citizens’ initiative. Florida4Marriage.org, the group that sponsored the proposal, collected 649,346 signatures — the law requires at least 611,009 — to get it on the ballot.
The remaining proposals were crafted by the constitutionally mandated Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, which meets once every 20 years to examine the state’s tax and spending policies and recommend changes. In September, the Florida Supreme Court tossed out three of the panel’s proposals — a controversial “tax swap” amendment and two other measures dealing with school vouchers.
Millions of dollars — much of it from donors outside the state — are already flowing to campaigns for and against the most hotly contested initiative, Amendment 2, the so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment.” Florida4Marriage.org, the Orlando-based group that spearheaded the anti-gay marriage amendment, has raised more than half a million dollars. The Republican Party of Florida gave $300,000 to the group while Jeb Bush was in office, but Gov. Charlie Crist said the party “probably” shouldn’t continue to spend money on the effort, and he isn’t planning to campaign for its passage.
Florida Red and Blue, the group that’s fighting the Florida marriage protection amendment, had raised more than $2 million as of early August and says it hasn’t “ruled out any medium” for getting its point across.
While millions of dollars have been spent on Florida’s 2008 initiatives battles, at least 50 other initiatives aimed at everything from billboards to alimony obligations failed to make it to the ballot.
Most were unable to raise the funds needed to collect the 611,009 valid signatures that Florida requires for a measure to qualify for the ballot — but some came close. An initiative by Florida Hometown Democracy, which would change the Constitution to require public approval of local comprehensive plan amendments, came up about 65,000 signatures short. The group could be in a good position to get its proposal on the 2010 ballot, since its petitions are valid for four years. However, a countermeasure sponsored by Floridians for Smarter Growth, a coalition of business interests that oppose the Florida Hometown Democracy measure, is close behind with 443,511 signatures.
» The Collins Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan, independent organization devoted to helping Florida tackle its toughest problems, has put out an analysis to help voters understand the amendments you'll find on the ballot Nov. 4th. Check it out at www.flamendments.org.