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Know your Florida constitutional amendments

If you're a Florida voter, prepare for a workout Nov. 4.

Already you will help decide one of the most closely watched presidential elections ever. And all 120 state House seats are up for election, plus half of the 40-seat Senate. Not to mention local elections.

But that's not all. The statewide ballot also contains nine proposed amendments to the state Constitution ranging from a ban on gay marriage to a fundamental change in how public schools are funded.

Here's a summary of those ballot items, in order of appearance on the ballot:

1. Repeal "Alien Land" Law

Would delete from the state Constitution language allowing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit property ownership by aliens ineligible for citizenship. From 1862 to 1965, more than a dozen states passed laws restricting Asian immigrants from owning property. Most states did away with the laws, but Florida has yet to do so.

2. Gay marriage ban

Would define marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife. Florida already has such a law, but backers say putting it in the Constitution protects from legal challenge.

3. Energy/hurricane

tax break

Improvements on residential property for energy efficiency or windstorm protection wouldn't be subject to property tax assessments.

4. Conservation

land tax break

Land held in perpetuity for conservation would be exempt from property taxes, and other conservation lands would be taxed on their current use rather than their "highest and best," or potential use.

5. Tax swap

Would reduce overall property taxes by about 25 percent by eliminating most property taxes for schools in 2011. To replace the more than $9-billion, lawmakers would have to increase the sales tax, eliminate sales tax exemptions, extend taxes to services such as lawyers or cut other state spending.

6. "Working

waterfront"

tax break

Would provide a property tax break for waterfront businesses such as marinas and boat repair shops that do not intend to convert to a more lucrative use, such as condominiums.

7. Repeal ban on funding for religious organizations

Would remove "Blaine Amendment" from the state Constitution, a century-old ban on funding for religious groups. In 2004, an appellate court cited the provision in rejecting then-Gov. Jeb Bush's school voucher program.

8. Community colleges

Would allow local option sales taxes to support community colleges if approved by local voters.

9. School funding vouchers

Orders that 65 percent of school funding go toward classroom instruction. Changes a provision of the state Constitution to allow private school vouchers.

Know your Florida constitutional amendments 05/12/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2008 2:00pm]
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