What You Need To Know Before Voting
When voters go to the polls on November 3, 2020, there will be six constitutional amendment proposals on the ballot. This article contains a brief discussion of the amendments. In order to adopt each amendment, it must be approved by 60% of voters casting a ballot. We take no position on any of the amendments, and simply wish to provide our readers with a summary of each proposed amendment. The ballot title and summary of each amendment, as same will be listed on the ballot, is provided, and a brief explanation follows.
Amendment 1: Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections
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. Because the proposed amendment is not expected to result in any changes to the voter registration process in Florida, it will have no impact on state or local government costs or revenue. Further, it will have no effect on the state’s economy.
Amendment 1 amends the language of Article VI of the Florida Constitution. Currently, Article VI provides that “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.” This amendment revises the language of Article VI to provide that “Only a citizen of the United States…” can vote. As currently drafted, the language of Article VI bars non-citizens from voting.
- Proponents argue that the language change is necessary to clarify who is not permitted to vote, and to stimy any efforts to give voting rights to non-citizens in local elections.
- Opponents argue that the amendment is unnecessary as the language of Article VI of the Florida Constitution already limits voting to citizens.
Amendment 2: Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage
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. State and local government costs will increase to comply with the new minimum wage levels. Additional annual wage costs will be approximately $16 million in 2022, increasing to about $540 million in 2027 and thereafter. Government actions to mitigate these costs are unlikely to produce material savings. Other government costs and revenue impacts, both positive and negative, are not quantifiable.
THIS PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IS ESTIMATED TO HAVE A NET NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE STATE BUDGET. THIS IMPACT MAY RESULT IN HIGHER TAXES OR A LOSS OF GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN A BALANCED STATE BUDGET AS REQUIRED BY THE CONSTITUTION.
Amendment 2 would increase Florida’s minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by September 2026. Currently, Florida’s minimum wage is $8.56 per hour. The amendment proposes to increase the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour in September 2021 with an increase of $1.00 per hour each year until the minimum wage becomes $15.00 per hour in September 2026. Thereafter, the minimum wage will be adjusted annually for inflation.
- Proponents argue that the increased minimum wage will allow minimum wage workers to earn enough to afford basic household necessities, and help to reduce race and gender income inequality. They also point to a potential increase in economic activity by increased household spending.
- Opponents argue that an increase in labor costs would likely be passed on to the customers which would lead to an increase in the cost of living. They argue that a minimum wage increase would impact state and local governments with increased wage costs of $16 million in 20212 and $540 million in 2027. They point to a 2019 Congressional Budget Office analysis looking at the potential impact of raising the federal minimum wage which predicted a .8% drop in employment and reduced business income.
Amendment 3: All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet
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. It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference projects that the combined costs across counties will range from $5.2 million to $5.8 million for each of the first three election cycles occurring in even-numbered years after the amendment’s effective date, with the costs for each of the intervening years dropping to less than $450,000. With respect to state costs for oversight, the additional costs for administering elections are expected to be minimal. Further, there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida. Since there is no impact on state costs or revenues, there will be no impact on the state’s budget. While the proposed amendment will result in an increase in local expenditures, this change is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact.
Currently, Florida is a closed primary state, meaning that voters can only vote in the primary of the party with which they are affiliated. Amendment 3 would replace closed primaries with open primaries for the following elections: Governor, State Cabinet, and Florida Legislature. In an open primary all voters vote for all candidates on a single ballot. The top two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, would advance to the general election. This change would only apply to the enumerated elections, and would not apply to local or federal races.
- Proponents argue that open primaries would help increase voter participation by allowing registered voters not affiliated with a major political party to participate in primary elections. They also argue it could help produce more competitive races and attract more moderate candidate to run for state offices.
- Opponents argue that open primaries could result in two members of a major political party being on the general ballot. Additionally, opponents argue that closed primaries ensure that candidates conform more closely and consistently with positions held by the two major political parties.
Amendment 4: Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments
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. It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional state and local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. Overall, these costs will vary from election cycle to election cycle depending on the unique circumstances of each ballot and cannot be estimated at this time. The key factors determining cost include the number of amendments appearing for the second time on each ballot and the length of those amendments. Since the maximum state cost is likely less than $1 million per cycle but the impact cannot be discretely quantified, the change to the state’s budget is unknown. Similarly, the economic impact cannot be modelled, although the spending increase is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact. Because there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida, there will be no impact on government taxes or fees.
THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF THIS AMENDMENT CANNOT BE DETERMINED DUE TO AMBIGUITIES AND UNCERTAINTIES SURROUNDING THE AMENDMENT’S IMPACT.
Amendment 4 would change the requirements to approve a constitutional amendment. Currently, a constitutional amendment is adopted if it is approved by 60% of the voters casting a ballot. Amendment 4 would require an amendment to be approved by at least 60% of the voters in two consecutive election cycles. In other words, a proposed amendment would have to be approved twice.
- Proponents argue that requiring double approval would limit “legislating” by constitutional amendment by making it harder to adopt amendments to the Florida Constitution.
- Opponents argue that it will limit voters’ ability to amend the constitution and to act as a check on the Florida Legislature when it fails to pass laws that are important to citizens.
Amendment 5: Limitations on Homestead Property Tax Assessments; increase portability period to transfer accrued benefit
Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective 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.
Amendment 5 increases the amount of time property owners have to transfer the “Save Our Homes” property tax exemption when they move. Currently, property owners have two years to transfer their tax exemption when they move. Amendment 5 would extend that to three years effective January 1, 2021.
- Proponents argue that, as the tax year starts on January 1, owners who sell later in the year end up with less time to transfer their tax benefit than owners who sell earlier in the year. They argue that extending the exemption to three years allows more Floridians to take advantage of the transfer.
- Opponents argue that the amendment would reduce local property taxes, including a reduction of $1.8 million in fiscal year 2021-2022.
Amendment 6: Ad Velorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities
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.
Under current law, honorably discharged, combat disabled veterans who are over 65 are eligible for a homestead property tax discount. However, the discount expires upon the death of the veteran. Amendment 6 would allow the homestead property discount to be transferred to the veteran’s surviving spouse who is on the title and lives in the home.
- Proponents argue that the amendment would extend additional tax relief to assist surviving spouses who often live on fixed incomes.
- Opponents argue that the tax discount will lead to a reduction in tax revenue including a reduction in school tax revenue by $1.6 million annually and non-school property tax revenue by $2.4 million annually.
A special Thank You to attorney Olivia Cato of our firm for preparing this article