Ask me what type of political story I despise writing every two years. Go on, ask.
“Um…what type of political story do you despise writing every two years?”
What a crazy process Florida uses to amend its state Constitution — voter referendum. Every two years voters are surprised to learn they’re to go yay or nay on a bunch of legal jargon that they’re seeing for the first time.
I’m (grudgingly) happy to help.
In general, I’m not a big fan of these things. It’s become way too easy to amend the state Constitution and that dilutes the document. That said, voters seem to embrace them. I counted at least 80 voter-approved amendments since 1990.
Now that we had our history lesson, let’s quickly break down this year’s amendments, which were all placed there by the Legislature:
--Amendment 1: “Proposing an amendment… to prohibit the consideration of any change or improvement made to real property used for residential purposes to improve the property's resistance to flood damage in determining the assessed value of such property for ad valorem taxation purposes.”
The idea here is to not penalize a homeowner who is protecting his house from potential flood by not adding that improvement onto the taxable value of the house.
This seems straight-forward in the typical vague amendment way. Still, does it belong in the state Constitution? There’s the question.
--Amendment 2: “Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission…”
The CRC's purpose is to gather public input and make recommended amendments to the Constitution. As we saw in recent decades, they're quite proficient at it.
All I’m going to say about this thing: It’s a massive state bureaucracy that comes around — seriously — every 20 years and, in my mind, has outlived its usefulness and is little more than a political tool.
If 2037 rolls around and the CRC doesn't show up, I doubt we'll miss it.
--Amendment 3: “Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to…grant an additional homestead tax exemption…of homestead property owned by classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, child welfare services professionals, active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, and Florida National Guard members.”
Wowzer. Basically everyone in that batch would get an additional $50,000 non-school homestead exemption. That is a very significant tax break to people who no doubt can use it, but is this good public policy? The answer is clearly no.
How exactly is this to be governed? What’s the property appraiser supposed to do — check back every few weeks to make sure the person getting the tax break is still working at the protected job? And what about these professionals who own homestead property in Citrus but work in a neighboring county? What is the benefit to Citrus County?
This seems like a great idea on paper but poorly thought out.
That's my take on the amendments. More thorough info can be found with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters of Florida, and Florida TaxWatch.
There you go. No pregnant pigs this year.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.