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Court kills ballot question whose answer was "Huh?'

It was complicated. It was arcane. Now it's gone.

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday tossed Amendment 7 off the ballot, saying it was incomprehensible.

The ballot question dealt with taxation of government-owned property leased to private interests, such as port space leased to shipping companies, terminal space leased to airlines and public land leased for stadiums.

The Supreme Court said the ballot summary did not explain the amendment "in clear and unambiguous language," as the state Constitution requires. "We do not believe that the ballot summary here is written clearly enough for even the more educated voters to understand its chief purpose," Justice Stephen H. Grimes wrote in an opinion supported by five other justices. Justice Parker Lee McDonald did not participate in the decision because his son's law firm represented one of the parties.

The amendment was placed on the ballot by the Florida Tax and Budget Reform Commission to eliminate the tax liability differences between businesses on private property and businesses on property leased from government.

If passed, it would have applied property tax rates to the leases. Now the government leases are taxed as intangible property, at about one-tenth the average property tax rate.

The change would have applied to leases executed after 1968. The proposal was challenged by airlines, seaports and shippers. The elimination of Amendment 7 will not affect the numbering of other amendments.