From raising the minimum hourly wage to tax discounts for spouses of certain deceased veterans, on Nov. 3 the stakes are high for Floridians. Here’s what you need to know.
Six proposed constitutional amendments will be on the ballot Nov. 3 in Florida. At least 60% of voters must approve an amendment for it to pass, so it is vitally important that voters understand their far-reaching consequences that will affect Floridians for generations to come.
Amendment 1: Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections
According to the Constitution, every citizen of the United States (who meets all other legal requirements) can vote in an election. But even though noncitizens are already prohibited from voting under Florida law, this amendment replaces “every citizen” with “only a citizen.”
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After President Trump sounded an unfounded alarm about undocumented immigrants “stealing” the election, this issue has gotten some traction among his supporters. Those in favor of the amendment include John Loudon, the leader of Florida Citizen Voters, who claims it is important to make sure the state never allows noncitizens to vote, as some other states have. (For example, in July San Francisco began registering noncitizens, including undocumented immigrants, to vote in the November election for the city school board, CNN reported).
Amendment 2: Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage
Pointing to the expanding wealth gap between the hourly worker and the corporate CEO, activists continue to call for a $15 minimum wage. Proposed by Florida For A Fair Wage, this amendment aims to raise Florida’s $8.56 per hour minimum wage to $10 per hour effective Sept. 30, 2021. The wage would increase by $1 per year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2026. After that date, it would be adjusted annually for inflation.
Supporters say raising the minimum wage will help boost the economy, as workers would have more spending power, but opponents claim that raising the minimum wage will put too great a burden on businesses and result in reduced hours and less hiring.
Amendment 3: All Can Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet
Florida has a closed primary system, which means that voters can only vote in their party’s primary election for state legislature, governor and cabinet-level positions. Proposed by All Voters Vote, this amendment would allow all voters to participate in primary elections. This means that all candidates running for office would appear on the same primary ballot and the two highest vote-getters, regardless of party, would move on to the general election, which could result in two Democrats or two Republicans being pitted against each other in the general election.
Detractors say that opening primaries in predominantly Black Democratic districts to white Republican and independent voters could hurt minority representation in Florida’s government. Another consideration is that third-party candidates would have a more difficult time making it on the general election ballot.
Amendment 4: Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments
This amendment would make it more difficult for voter ballot initiatives to change the foundation of Florida’s laws, because instead of a single referendum requiring the approval of 60% of voters, it would double the requirement, meaning it would require approval in two elections instead of one, making it twice as difficult for Floridians to change the state constitution.
The ballot initiative process—which was used to legalize medical marijuana, for example—is the only way Floridians can bypass the Florida Legislature. Making it more difficult for state voters to amend the constitution could effectively end future ballot initiatives.
This petition drive proposed by Keep Our Constitution Clean is funded by a secret nonprofit group linked to a lobbying organization for a group of big businesses, Florida Power and Light among them.
Amendment 5: Limitation on Homestead Assessments
Floridians who move from one homesteaded property to another have two years from Jan. 1 of the year of the sale of the first home to claim the tax benefit. Proposed by The Florida Legislature, which passed it unanimously, this amendment would increase the time one has to transfer one’s “Save Our Homes” benefit from two to three years when moving to a new house.
However, this amendment would reduce local property taxes by $1.8 million beginning in 2021-2022, eventually growing to an annual reduction of $10.2 million, according to a fiscal analysis published by The Sun Sentinel, which means that local governments would lose some money.
Amendment 6: Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities
As proposed by the Florida Legislature, which passed it unanimously, the homestead property tax discounts for deceased veterans with combat-related disabilities would carry over to a veteran’s surviving spouse until he or she remarries or sells the property. If the spouse sells the property and does not remarry, the spouse’s new primary residence may receive the homestead tax discount. However, those opposing the amendment say that school tax revenues would fall, with a recurring loss of $1.6 million, and non-school property tax revenues would fall initially by $600,000 with a recurring loss of $2.4 million, according to the same analysis.