Florida constitutional amendments: Votes fall short for property tax cuts

Votes for changes to the state constitution fell below the needed 60% on Election Day.
An aerial view of the homes damaged by Hurricane Ian in the vicinity of Fort Myers. A state constitutional referendum on the ballot Tuesday would limit taxation on improvements that make a property more resistant to flood damage.
An aerial view of the homes damaged by Hurricane Ian in the vicinity of Fort Myers. A state constitutional referendum on the ballot Tuesday would limit taxation on improvements that make a property more resistant to flood damage. [ AL DIAZ/ADIAZ@MIAMIHERALD.COM | Miami Herald ]
Published Nov. 9, 2022|Updated Nov. 9, 2022

A majority of Florida voters appeared to support three amendments to the state constitution, but election results late Tuesday showed all three still below the 60% threshold needed for the changes to be approved.

All three ballot initiatives were offered by the state Legislature, which means each was put onto the ballot by votes of three-fifths of both the state House and Senate.

Amendment 1 was perhaps the least controversial of the three. It would allow the Legislature to pass a tax exemption on investments in homes that make them more resistant to flood damage. Currently, the Florida Constitution allows for tax exemptions for renovations related to wind resistance or for solar installation. (Normally, the Legislature can’t change what is exempt from local property taxes. That’s why this issue — and Amendment 3 — had to go before voters.)

“An area’s resistance to flood damage can be increased through … improvements made to individual properties, such as elevating structures, filling basements, and waterproofing,” a House bill analysis wrote in 2021. The measure came before voters after clearing both chambers of the Legislature unanimously.

Normally, renovations that make a home more resistant to flood damage increase the value of a house, noted the League of Women Voters, which did not take a position on the amendment. Amendment 1 would make it so governments can’t tax a homeowner more based on those improvements.

Results just after 11 p.m. showed the amendment poised to fail, with 57% of voters approving the measure, with 98% of precincts reporting statewide.

The second constitutional amendment before voters would abolish a different process for amending the state constitution: the Constitution Revision Commission. Every 20 years, a 37-person committee meets to discuss changes to the state constitution. Three members are appointed by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court; nine by the president of the state Senate; nine by the speaker of the state House; and 15 by the governor, including the chairperson. The attorney general also sits on the commission.

The commission last met in 2017-2018. That year, it put seven amendments before voters, including a ban on betting on dog racing.

“By getting rid of the Constitution Revision Commission, we still have multiple pathways to get to the constitution. People have a direct democracy path, and they have a representative government path. But what they don’t have is an unelected-bureaucrat-being-placed-on-the-Constitution-Revision-Commission path,” Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said in 2021, moments before the state Senate voted to advance the measure.

Opponents of the amendment said that the commission may not be perfect but it shouldn’t be scrapped.

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“Eliminating the Constitution Revision Commission will remove a generational opportunity for citizens to update their constitution,” the League of Women Voters wrote on its website.

Voters disagreed, with 54% in favor of Amendment 2, as of 11 p.m. — not enough to eliminate the Constitution Revision Committee.

Amendment 3 was another proposal to exempt certain people from some local property taxes.

Classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, child welfare services professionals, active-duty military members and members of the Florida National Guard would all get an additional $50,000 homestead exemption under the amendment.

That exemption would apply to the value of the property between $100,000 and $150,000. It would not apply to school district taxes.

Amendment 3 still fell short of the margin needed for passage as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, with 58% voting in favor and 41% opposed.

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