By Dale Martin
September 14, 2018 12:00 a.m.
As has been oft-mentioned, this November’s ballot will include several key political races, including the statewide contests for U.S. Senator and Governor. Additional statewide issues on the ballot are the thirteen proposed State constitutional amendments. Each of these amendments will require at least sixty percent approval in order to be incorporated into the Florida Constitution. Over the next few weeks, I’d like to provide a brief description of each amendment in order to provide an introductory level of familiarity to what is proposed.
Question No. 1 is titled “Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption.” This proposed amendment would increase the homestead exemption for qualifying property owners for the portion of a homesteaded property’s assessed valuation greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000. Please note that this increased exemption does not apply to every homesteaded property: only those with an assessed value of at least $100,000. If your property has a lesser assessed value (or is not homesteaded), you will not be affected by this change, if adopted. The Nassau County Property Appraiser has prepared a map (based upon 2017 values since the 2018 values have not been integrated) that illustrates the potential impact upon your property. Please visit https://maps.nassauflpa.com/NassauTaxMap/# to begin a search. Then click on “Map Layers” at the top of the screen, then select “Land Records” in the box on the left, and finally, select “3rd HX Savings.” When you locate your property on the map, the map will show the potential impact. Again, this map tool provided by the Nassau County Property Appraiser Mr. Michael Hickox is an incredibly useful tool, offering a wealth of information related to County properties.
Question No. 1 was placed on the ballot by vote of the Florida Legislature, passing in the House, 83-35 (2 non-votes), and in the Senate, 28-10 (1 non-vote). Proponents of the amendment believe that the additional exemption will lessen the tax burden on homeowners, generating additional revenue for the state economy. Opponents believe that the amendment would result in a shift in taxes: reducing taxes for those properties valued at over $100,000, but, due to the loss of that revenue, taxes would be increased on lesser valued homes.
Question No. 2 is titled “Limitations on Property Tax Assessments.” Currently, the Constitution limits property tax assessment increases to ten percent annually for specified non-homesteaded property. This cap is slated to expire on January 1, 2019. The proposed amendment would make this ten percent cap permanent. The properties affected by the amendment include second homes, rental apartments and non-residential property (commercial and vacant land). The cap does not apply to school district taxes. Again, this amendment was placed on the ballot by the Legislature: House, 110-3 (7 non-votes); Senate, 35-0 (4 non-votes). This amendment would prevent substantial increases of assessments (when rising property values would demonstrate) to many Fernandina Beach commercial and second home property owners. As indicated by the Legislature’s votes, this amendment does not appear to have any organized opposition.
Question No. 3 is titled “Voter Control of Gambling in Florida.” If passed, the Florida Legislature would not be allowed to authorize casino gambling through state statute or constitutional amendment. Instead, voters, through citizen-initiated ballot measures would have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in Florida. “Casino gambling” is defined as card games, casino games, and slot machines; wagering on horse racing, dog racing, and jai alai exhibitions is not included, nor is gambling authorized on Native American tribal lands.
Proponents argue that only in recent years has the Legislature inserted itself into casino regulations, and that the issue should return to voter-control. Opponents argue that regulations related to casino gambling are more easily implement through the Legislature rather than through citizen initiatives.
I will continue the overview of the proposed amendments next week. I hope that you take appropriate time to consider your vote on every candidate and question on the 2018 ballot.