Find Your Way Through The 98 Possible Amendments On The South Florida Ballots

Oct 21, 2016

While we have spent months talking about races for president, senate or mayor in some cases, if you take a closer look at the Florida ballot there are actually very few candidate races. In fact, the majority of what you’ll be voting for on November 8th are ballot initiatives: changes to the state constitution, county charter or various municipal questions.

Florida voters are considering 98 initiatives and it’s actually pretty hard to find what will be on your ballot, much less what they mean, since they vary from one municipality to the other. Some of these questions could have significant impact on you and the future of the state, like legalization of marijuana, when elections should be held, who won’t have to pay property taxes or if you can sue your city, among others.

In order to help you make this decision, we compiled a list of every ballot initiative South Floridians will see in the voting booth—all 98 of them. 

You can read through all the Amendments in the ballot or jump to:

State Constitutional Amendments

- County Ballot Initiatives:

All Municipal Ballot Initiatives

Cities within all four South Florida Counties also have initiatives on the ballot. Select your county and city below to see what they are. 

STATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

All Florida residents will see these amendments on their ballots and 60% will need to approve a measure in order for it to pass.

The US constitution has just 27 amendments, the Florida constitution has hundreds and there are a few reasons for that. Citizen initiatives bypass the legislative process, where bills die with incredible frequency. The Legislature can also put controversial issues to the voters so they don’t have to make unpopular decisions themselves. Any changed to a county or city charter often have to go before the electorate.

Amendment 1 - Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice

What you will see on the ballot:

This amendment establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do. The amendment is not expected to result in an increase or decrease in any revenues or costs to state and local government.

Read Full Language of the Amendment. 

In a nutshell:

A utility-backed amendment that says consumers who don’t have solar panels won’t be forced to subsidize the costs of the grid for those who do. Opponents say this amendment could open the door for the legislature to make solar more expensive for individual solar panel owners by allowing for charges and fees.

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Amendment 2 - Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions

What you will see on the ballot:

Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana. Increased costs from this amendment to state and local governments cannot be determined. There will be additional regulatory costs and enforcement activities associated with the production, sale, use and possession of medical marijuana. Fees may offset some of the regulatory costs. Sales tax will likely apply to most purchases, resulting in a substantial increase in state and local government revenues that cannot be determined precisely. The impact on property tax revenues cannot be determined.

Read the full language of the amendment.

In a nutshell:

The amendment would legalize medical uses of marijuana for certain debilitating medical conditions. It lists certain some conditions marijuana could be prescribed for, but leaves room for interpretation. Specifics of implementation would be worked out later by the Florida Department of Health.

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Amendment 3 - Tax Exemption for Totally and Permanently Disabled First Responders

What you will see on the ballot:

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize a first responder, who is totally and permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty, to receive relief from ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property, if authorized by general law. If approved by voters, the amendment takes effect January 1, 2017.

Read the full language of the amendment. 

In a nutshell:

The amendment came from a constituent idea and would provide property tax exemptions for disabled first responders. This would treat first responders similarly to military veterans who are disabled on the job, who already get a similar tax break.

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Amendment 5 - Homestead Tax Exemption for Certain Senior, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination of Just Value

What you will see on the ballot:

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to revise the homestead tax exemption that may be granted by counties or municipalities for property with just value less than $250,000 owned by certain senior, low-income, long-term residents to specify that just value is determined in the first tax year the owner applies and is eligible for the exemption. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2017, and applies retroactively to exemptions granted before January 1, 2017.

Read the full Language of the amendment.  

In a nutshell:

This amendment expands existing tax breaks for low-income elderly Floridians. These seniors already get exempted from paying property taxes, this amendment would allow seniors to keep that break even if their property increases in value above the limit. Eligibility for the tax break will now be tied to the value of the property the first year someone applies for it.

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PALM BEACH COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENTS

Palm Beach County voters will have to decide on one charter amendment.

Palm Beach County District Schools, Cities and County Government Infrastructure One-Cent Sales Surtax

What you will see on the ballot:

To enhance education by improving district-owned school buildings, equipment, technology and security; purchase school buses, public safety vehicles and equipment; and equip, construct and repair roads, bridges, signals, streetlights, sidewalks, parks, drainage, shoreline and wastewater infrastructure, recreational and governmental facilities; shall the County levy a one-cent sales surtax beginning January 1, 2017 and automatically ending on or before December 31, 2026, with independent oversight by citizen committees?

In a nutshell:

This would allow for a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for infrastructure for the school district, counties and cities based on population size. Some estimate the revenue could be as high as $2.7 billion over 10 years.

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BROWARD COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENTS

Broward County voters will have to decide on 4 charter amendments.

Broward County Charter Review Commission Member Terms and Future Appointment

What you will see on the ballot:

Shall Broward County Charter provisions relating to the Charter Review Commission be amended (1) to reconcile conflicting provisions relating to current members’ terms, allowing them to serve until the day after the November 2018 general election, and (2) to provide that future Charter Review Commission members shall be appointed every 12 years commencing in January 2027 and serve until the day after the November general election in the year following appointment?

In a nutshell:

A recommendation from the Charter Review Commission, which meets every 10 years. This commission met for the first time in August 2015 and will serve until November 2018. This would clear up some confusion about the terms for those on the Charter Review Commission.

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Amending Broward County Charter To Eliminate The Management And Efficiency Study Committee

What you will see on the ballot:

Shall the Broward County Charter be amended to eliminate Article X and Section 10.01, which established the Management and Efficiency Study Committee, which is scheduled to convene in June 2020 and every ten years thereafter?

In a nutshell:

This would eliminate the Management and Efficiency Study Committee which meets every few years and is slated to convene next in June, 2020. Eliminating the committee could save more than $200,000 every 10 years when it meets. Also, the committee has no power to enact anything, it only recommends action. The County Commission could arguably do this itself or with outside help for cheaper.

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Funding for Countywide Transportation System Through Levy of a One-Half Percent Sales Surtax

  What you will see on the ballot:

Shall transportation improvements to reduce traffic congestion, develop rail and enhanced bus systems, improve roads and signalization, and develop safe sidewalks and bicycle pathways, be funded by levying a 30-year, 0.5% sales surtax, paid by residents and visitors, with all proceeds held in trust, expenditures overseen by an independent oversight board, and this levy effective only if the infrastructure surtax ballot question immediately below is voter-approved and in effect?

In a nutshell:

This would implement a half-penny sales surtax to pay for transit development and improvement. This can only pass if the other tax hike passes as well.

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Funding for Local Government Infrastructure Projects Through Levy Of A One-Half Percent Sales Surtax

  What you will see on the ballot:

Shall construction and improvement of public buildings, facilities and roads, transportation projects, pedestrian safety projects, purchase of equipment and public safety vehicles, and recreation/conservation land acquisition be funded by levying a 30-year, 0.5% sales surtax, paid by residents and visitors, with all proceeds held in trust, expenditures overseen by an independent oversight board, and this levy effective only if the transportation surtax ballot question immediately above is voter-approved and in effect?

In a nutshell:

This would implement a half-penny sales surtax to pay for local improvement projects. In order for this to pass, the other half penny tax must also pass.

Want to know more?

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENTS

Miami-Dade County voters will have to decide on 2 charter amendments.

Charter Amendment on Control of Special Purpose Districts in Municipalities

  What you will see on the ballot:

Shall the Charter be amended to allow the Board of County Commissioners to provide, by ordinance, that the governing body of any special purpose district located entirely within the boundaries of a municipality be the governing body of the municipality rather than the Board of County Commissioners as is currently required by the Charter?

In a nutshell:

From Doug Hanks, County reporter for the Miami Herald: "This amendment lets cities manage taxing districts within their boundaries that fund lights, security and maintenance for private neighborhoods and communities. Currently, only the county can manage them."

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Charter Amendment Including Right to Copy Public Records in the Citizens' Bill of Rights

  What you will see on the ballot:

The public records provision of the Charter’s Citizens’ Bill of Rights, enforced by both private action and the Commission on Ethics and the Public Trust, currently requires public records of the County and the municipalities be open to the public only for inspection. Shall this provision be amended to also require that such records be available for copying by the public in a manner consistent with State public records law?

In a nutshell:

This ballot item suggested by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE), gives express permission for people to copy county documents, not just the ability inspect them. This right exists on the state level, but there was no similar provision giving that right on the county level. According to the Miami Herald, this is because 'The Citizens’ Bill of Rights, which covers only the inspection of public records, was incorporated into the county charter when it was adopted in 1957, long before the common use of duplication equipment and processes.

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MONROE COUNTY BALLOT INITIATIVE

Monroe County voters will have the opportunity to participate in a non binding survey. 

Non-binding Poll: Florida Keys Mosquito Control District Utilizing Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In Monroe County, Florida

  What you will see on the ballot:

Are you in favor of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District conducting an effectiveness trial in Monroe County, Florida, using genetically modified mosquitoes to suppress an invasive mosquito that carries mosquito-borne diseases?

In a nutshell:

A survey of Florida Keys residents to see how they feel about using genetically modified mosquitos that are designed to help prevent the spread of diseases or viruses, like Zika and Dengue.

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