Written by Karina Bravo
In the upcoming General Election, Florida voters will vote on six proposed constitutional amendments which range from raising the minimum wage to tax reform. On Oct. 8, the Student Honors Organization held a webinar hosted by public policy specialist Ida V. Eskamani to inform students about these amendments. Here is a brief rundown of the information Eskamani shared about each amendment.
Amendment 1: Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections
In the state of Florida, only a citizen of the United States who is over the age of 18, is a permanent resident and is registered to vote may take part in Florida elections. This proposed amendment would change the wording in the constitution from ‘every citizen’ to ‘only a citizen’ has a right to vote. Because it will not have any substantive policy impact, opponents argue that the amendment is redundant and may lead some voters to believe they are voting to change Florida law.
Amendment 2: Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage.
The current minimum wage in the state of Florida is $8.56. If Amendment 2 were to pass, it would raise the minimum wage to $10 in 2021 and then gradually increase the minimum wage by $1 per year until 2026, capping off at $15. A $15 minimum wage is widely regarded as a “living wage,” and the passage of this amendment would increase the pay of 26% of Florida’s workers. Opponents argue that increasing the minimum wage may lead to unemployment, while proponents assert that the gradual increase will protect jobs and help Florida families in the long run.
Amendment 3: All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet.
This amendment would change Florida’s primary elections to a “jungle primary” where all candidates regardless of party affiliation will be listed together on the ballot. The top two vote-getters will advance to the General Election. Under the current system, the Democrat and Republican parties each hold separate primaries, and the winning candidate from each party advances. Under the proposed change, it would be possible for two candidates from the same party to advance to the General. Proponents say that this allows increased voter participation, as all voters, regardless of party affiliation, can participate. However, opponents argue that this amendment would have an adverse impact on African-American representation in government.
Amendment 4: Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments
The current threshold for voter approval of a state constitutional amendment is 60% in a single election. With the passage of Amendment 4, proposed amendments will need to receive 60% of the vote in two separate elections to take effect. This amendment will make it much harder to revise and amend the Florida constitution, which proponents argue will prevent the passage of unnecessary amendments. Opponents argue that this measure will limit direct democracy and eliminate grassroots initiatives due to the increased cost and resources necessary for campaigning in two separate elections.
Amendment 5: Limit on Homestead Exemption
Amendment 5 will increase the amount of time new homeowners are allowed to transfer their “Save Our Homes” tax break from a prior home from 2 to 3 years. In 1982, the “Save Our Homes” amendment was passed to allow homeowners to transfer their tax benefits over to a new home for two years, beginning Jan. 1 of the year the home was sold. This caused some homeowners to have less time to transfer the “Save Our Homes” benefit if they sold their home late in the year. By extending the tax break from two to three years, legislators believe that the law is fulfilling its initial purpose.
Amendment 6: Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans who had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities
Under Florida law, disabled military veterans are allowed a property tax discount that expires upon their death. Amendment 6 would extend the property tax discount to the veteran’s surviving spouse. Spouses would have the discount until they remarry, sell their property, or pass away. Proponents argue that this tax discount will help support military families in need with a minimal impact on tax revenues.