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More on Amendment 4

Posted by Ed Candela 
More on Amendment 4
September 25, 2012 12:55PM
Realtors move another $1.5 million into Amendment 4 pro-property tax campaign committee

by Dara Kam, the Palm Beach Post | September 24th, 2012

State and national Realtors associations pumped another $1.5 million into a campaign pushing a constitutional amendment limiting property taxes mainly for nonhomestead property owners, bringing to $3.5 million the groups have raised so far, according to campaign finance records.

The Florida Association of Realtors added another $1 million on Aug. 31 and the National Association of Realtors gave $500,000 on Sept. 5 to the “Taxpayers First” political committee, the records show. The Florida group had already dumped more than $2 million into the campaign, which includes a slick “Tax Your Assets Off” marketing blitz, urging a “yes” vote on Amendment 4.

Amendment 4 would save money for first-time home buyers, rental property owners and snowbirds, and it could cut taxes for homestead owners who lose value on their homes.

Local governments oppose the amendment, one of 11 put on the November ballot by the GOP-dominated legislature, which state economists say could cost schools, counties and cities about $1.7 billion over four years.

The Florida Association of Counties recently set up the “Citizens for Local Decision Making” political committee but haven’t reported any contributions yet, the campaign finance records show.

Hmmm, could those "nonhomesteaded" folks be the large corporations buying up foreclosures for use as rentals and then dumping large campaign contributions to legislators??? Here's some info on Amendment 5(another power grab attempt by the legislature):

TALLAHASSEE – Florida voters this fall are being drawn into a multi-year grudge match between Republican political leaders in Tallahassee and the state's traditionally independent Supreme Court.

The brainchild of outgoing House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, Amendment 5 would allow the Florida Legislature to repeal court rules with a majority vote, instead of the two-thirds now required. That would afford Republicans who control the Legislature the power to block court rules in the future even if their current super-majority shrinks.

And more on 5:
An independent court is at stake in Florida

By Martin Dyckman
In Print: Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On the day he was assassinated, Huey Long was manipulating the Louisiana Legislature to be rid of a judge who had blocked some of his schemes. The judge's son-in-law got him first.

An independent judiciary is to tyrants as sunlight to vampires. Unlike vampires, however, demagogues and dictators like Huey Long are a real — and constant — danger.

Alexander Hamilton made that point in one of the Federalist essays he wrote to persuade the people of New York to ratify the Constitution, which had been submitted to them 225 years ago this month.

"The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution," he said. "Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing."

Imagine the outcome of Watergate without an independent Judge John Sirica; without a Supreme Court unafraid to make a lawless president give up the proof of his crimes.

Now consider Florida's future if Gov. Rick Scott packs the state Supreme Court with new justices of his choosing. Scott has craved the opportunity since the 5-2 court opinion last year that stopped him from usurping the Legislature's rulemaking authority. Prison privatization and other significant cases are percolating up the ladder. The one involving drastic pension changes is already there. State or federal courts have now ruled against overreaching by Scott and/or the Legislature on at least 10 occasions in just two years.

So Scott's hand is evident in the Florida Republican Party's unprecedented decision to oppose the retention of three of those justices on the November ballot. It recalls the petty and spiteful attempt by some conservative Republicans to make an issue of the notary signatures on their election documents.

And Finally:
A blatant threat to the judiciary

As a registered Republican, I am appalled to read that the Republican Party of Florida is using hard-earned donations to mount a campaign to oppose the retention of state Supreme Court Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

This is a nonpartisan retention election for three of the finest, hardworking, ethical and intelligent jurists we have. Surely there are Republican legislative candidates in Florida who could use these funds.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor travels the country declaring campaigns such as this a threat to our judiciary, the third branch of government, and in fact our entire democracy. The Republican Party's justification — a 10-year-old death penalty case — is even more ludicrous. This is nothing more than a blatant attempt at court-packing, a dream of giving Gov. Rick Scott three appointments to the court.

And this is that party that calls Charlie Crist an "opportunist."

Irene H. Sullivan, Florida circuit judge (retired), Pinellas Park

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/27/2012 12:51PM by Ed Candela.
And more:
September 28, 2012 01:18PM
League of Women Voters urges straight 'no' ticket on amendments

When Floridians enter the voting booth Nov. 6 and find themselves confronting four pages of fine-print legalese describing 11 proposed constitutional amendments, the League of Women Voters has some simple advice: Just say NO to all 11.

Saying the state constitutional amendments on the November ballot would cut spending on education and do damage to the checks and balances among the branches of Florida's government, the League of Women Voters argued against them Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

“From beginning to end these amendments are bad ideas,” LWV president Deirdre Macnab said. “We are strongly opposing all of the 11 amendments on the ballots and we are encouraging voters to give them a thumbs down.”

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/28/2012 01:19PM by Ed Candela.
Tax breaks mean unintended consequences
October 01, 2012 02:04PM
[b]Tax breaks mean unintended consequences[[/size]/b]

By JEROME R. STOCKFISCH | The Tampa Tribune
Published: October 01, 2012

Voters will revisit one of the Florida Legislature's pet pocketbook issues in November, with nearly half of the proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot addressing property tax breaks.

Five of the 11 amendments going before voters on Nov. 6 call for property tax exemptions that would give new breaks to first-time buyers, second-home owners, those whose homes' market values have dropped, certain individuals and small businesses.

In Florida, lowering their own taxes has been a no-brainer for voters. But cities and counties that have to provide services with dwindling revenues are urging voters to consider the consequences.

The most ambitious of the proposals, Amendment 4, would cut about $1.7 billion from local revenues statewide over the next four years. Counties alone already have cut spending by $3 billion since 2007, according to the Florida Association of Counties.

"The biggest issue is that it (Amendment 4) takes a very complex property tax system and makes it even more complicated," said Amber Hughes, a legislative advocate for the Florida League of Cities. "It picks winners and losers. We need a fair system, and this is not that."

Amendment 4 has the muscle of the Florida Association of Realtors behind it. The group has poured $3 million into a humorous "Tax Your Assets Off" ad campaign.

Current law caps annual assessment increases on non-homestead property — typically Floridians' second homes or those used by winter visitors from out of state — at 10 percent. The amendment would reduce that to 5 percent.

Amendment 4 also provides first-time homebuyers who now receive a $50,000 homestead exemption an additional exemption of half the appraised value of the new home, up to $150,000. That benefit is phased out over five years.

And it eliminates the "recapture rule" that has allowed taxes to rise on homes whose market value decreased.

Florida TaxWatch, a Tallahassee watchdog group, estimated that Amendment 4 would create more than 19,000 jobs, increase gross domestic product by $1.1 billion, and boost personal income by $5.3 billion in 10 years.

But Florida Association of Counties spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller said her group is particularly troubled by the break for second-home owners, which makes up the biggest chunk of the amendment's budgetary impact. She called the amendment a cost-shift to year-round residents.

"We're being sold a tax cut, but it's just a tax shift," she said. "Year-round residents have a lower tax burden, so if you lower the tax burden of our snowbirds, think about that seesaw. Year-round residents' taxes have nowhere to go but up."

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., concluded that the "deeply flawed set of property tax changes" included in Amendment 4 would lead to tax increases for large numbers of Floridians, a competitive disadvantage for new and emerging businesses, and significant cuts in local services "while producing little if any economic benefit."

Also appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot are Amendment 2, which would provide property tax relief to disabled veterans; Amendment 9, offering a break for surviving spouses of veterans or first responders killed in the line of duty; Amendment 10, which boosts the exemption on tangible personal property from $25,000 to $50,000; and Amendment 11, providing property tax relief for low-income senior citizens.

There were two amendments calling for homestead or other property tax exemptions in 2006, one in 2008, three more by a state budget commission that same year, and one more in 2010 — and voters passed every one.

"For the last few election cycles, voters have voted in favor of their pockets," said Tony Carvajal, chief operations officer at the Collins Center for Public Policy, a neutral group that is educating voters about the amendments. "I think voters look at homestead exemptions as something that is about reducing their taxes. I don't think they fully consider the consequences to local government."
Measures betray GOP principles
October 02, 2012 11:26AM
Measures betray GOP principles

The 11 constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature violate the basic principles of the Republican Party. The Republican Party used to believe that less government was better, that decisions should be made at the local level and that constitutions should be respected.

As a group, these amendments create more unchanging government rules, seize decisionmaking from local governments by transferring it to Tallahassee, and change a Constitution that Republicans usually claim should be followed as its writers intended. Real Republicans, those who believe in basic Republican principles, should vote no on the Tallahassee amendments.

Martin Peters, Tarpon Springs
[b]Amendment 8 pits religious groups, backers of church-state separation[/b]
October 05, 2012 02:38PM
Amendment 8 pits religious groups, backers of church-state separation

By Leslie Postal (Tampa Tribune)
7:44 p.m. EDT, October 4, 2012

Dead almost 120 years, James Blaine — the GOP presidential candidate in 1884 — is making an appearance in Florida's 2012 election.

When voters go to the polls in November, they will be asked whether they want to delete the so-called Blaine Amendment from Florida's constitution. Also called the “no aid provision,” it prohibits state aid to religious institutions.

Those supporting a “yes” vote on Amendment 8 say removing Blaine's language will protect religious freedom and remove a sentence tainted by the politics and prejudices of the late 19th century. Opponents call the measure an underhanded effort to expand school-voucher programs and shift taxpayer funding from public to private schools.

Like similar provisions in more than 30 other states' constitutions, Florida's was named for Blaine, the Maine congressman who tried unsuccessfully to get a similar sentence inserted into the U.S. Constitution. It bans state aid to “any church, sect, or religious denomination or … sectarian institution” and is viewed as a stricter requirement for church-state separation than found in the federal Constitution.

The Florida Legislature, which put the measure on the ballot, wants it deleted and replaced with a sentence that says the government cannot deny funding based on religion. Sixty percent of voters must agree for the change to be made.

Catholic dioceses and organizations are leading the push for the proposal and have provided the bulk of the more than $177,000 raised in that effort.

They say the “no aid” provision is rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry — some argue racism, too — and threatens the ability of religious groups to offer government-funded social-service programs.

The reason for the ballot push, they say, is a 2007 case in which two Christian halfway houses for prisoners were sued on the grounds that their state contracts violated Florida's “no aid” provision. The case remains unresolved, but an appeals court has ruled that a trial can proceed.

“We do see the current provision as a threat,” said Michael Sheedy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing the Florida halfway houses and has been fighting to remove Blaine amendments from state constitutions.

“They act as kind of a disqualifying measure specifically for religious entities,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel.

Opponents include most major education groups, such as the Florida PTA, the Florida School Boards Association and Florida Education Association teachers union. They have $1 million from the union's political action committee to use in their campaign against it.

They call the ballot measure's “religious freedom” title a misnomer, arguing Catholics and other religious groups take part in many public offerings, from health care to Florida's pre-kindergarten program.

They argue deleting the “no aid” provision would remove a potential barrier to programs that would use taxpayer money to pay for student scholarships to private schools, including religious ones. They say it could allow any religious group — even an “extreme” one — to form a school and then seek taxpayer funding.

It would be the “end of the separation of church and state in our constitution,” said Deidre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Ruth Melton, of the school boards association, said the proposal could lead to Florida paying to educate many of the estimated 200,000 children not in public school, a prospect that could cost billions of dollars.

David Barkey, religious freedom counsel for the Boca Raton-based Anti Defamation League Florida Office, said it's about more than just schools.

“What this is doing is requiring Florida taxpayers to fund houses of worship under the pretext of religious freedom,” he said. “Does this remove an obstacle to school vouchers? Yes, but if this is really about school vouchers, then this is like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.”
More on Amendment 4
October 07, 2012 12:49PM
Reject special tax breaks on real estate

In Print: Sunday, October 7, 2012

No one likes to pay taxes. But a complicated constitutional amendment written by state legislators would make an unfair property tax system worse by handing out more special tax breaks aimed at specific groups of property owners. Voters should just say no and reject Amendment 4.

The Florida Realtors, one of Tallahassee's most powerful trade groups, persuaded Republican lawmakers to embrace a trio of tax breaks. In just four years, Amendment 4 would reduce local governments' tax collections by an estimated $1.6 billion. It would restructure the state's property tax system to prevent the ability of counties, cities and special taxing districts to recover ground lost in the recession.

Beyond that bad policy, however, legislative leaders embraced arbitrary tax breaks for some that will shift the burden for paying for government to everyone else. The provisions would:

• Grant new home buyers an extraordinary tax break for five years, ensuring that their neighbors who bought during the recent housing boom will pay higher taxes even as they may also be underwater on their mortgages. In the first year of ownership, new buyers would pay taxes on the equivalent of 50 percent of the home's taxable value. They would gradually pay more each year until they are at 100 percent in the sixth year. Not only is that unfair to current homeowners who pay taxes based on a taxable value close to the market value, it encourages people to buy homes they might not be able to afford.

• Further protect snowbirds and other nonresidential property owners (OP: like large corporations buying hundreds of foreclosures for rentals) from tax increases, ultimately discouraging new business investment. Amendment 4 would cap the annual increase in taxable value for nonhomesteaded property at 5 percent instead of the current 10 percent. Supporters argue that provides certainty for businesses and investors, but it will also make new businesses less competitive. Consider, for example, two fast-food restaurants at the same intersection. Depending on when owners bought the properties, they could pay radically different tax bills, burdening one with higher operating costs.

• Ensure Florida's property tax system never gets fairer. The Legislature would be allowed to suspend the so-called "recapture rule," the one mechanism the state has for restoring some equity to the system. Under the recapture rule, property owners paying taxes based on below-market value due to Save Our Homes limits and the similar cap on non-homesteaded properties can see their taxable values increase even in a down market. But the increase is never more than 3 percent for homeowners and 10 percent for nonhomestead properties — and those owners have paid less taxes for years than neighbors who bought more recently.

The Realtors want voters to believe that Amendment 4 can solve the problems afflicting the real estate market such as subprime lending, overbuilding and the financial crisis. It won't. Tax collections have dropped precipitously in recent years, and caps on annual assessment increases mean they won't rebound quickly, even with the recapture rule. These targeted tax breaks only make the system more unfair, when what is really needed is comprehensive reform.

Voters should just say no to the Legislature's constitutional amendments. On Amendment 4, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting no.
Amendment 1 lacks any legal authority
October 17, 2012 03:34PM
Amendment 1 lacks any legal authority

The Florida Current Oct 17, 2012

Florida’s Republican-led Legislature voted in 2011 to put Amendment 1 on the ballot to exempt Floridians from the federal Affordable Care Act. Amendment 1 would prohibit levying taxes and penalties lon against individuals, employers and health care providers for failing to pay for health insurance

The proposal was drafted by conservative state Republicans before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the provision of the law mandating health insurance coverage. Federal law supersedes state law. And since the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution has been tested throughout the country’s history, most legal scholars say passage of Amendment 1 would do nothing but create a possibility for more lawsuits.

However backers like state Senate President Mike Haridopolos say passage of the amendment would send a strong message that Floridians don’t like the plan known as “Obamacare.”

The proposed amendment has received little attention or funding. Opponents call it a hot-button issue and say the GOP-controlled Legislature put it on the Nov. 6 ballot to drive Republican turnout.
Tampa Bay Times' view
October 30, 2012 01:19PM
Just say 'no' to all 11 amendments

In Print: Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The best way to send a message to Tallahassee that Floridians want fairer taxes and less extreme government is to say "no" to the 11 state constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot. Florida doesn't need a single one of the measures authored by the Legislature and presented with attractive but deceptive titles and dense summaries.

The amendments fall into two broad categories. One is a pernicious effort to sneak a conservative social agenda into the state Constitution by soft-selling the changes. The other is a raft of tax cuts that benefit arbitrary groups of people and interests. To the casual observer, these tax measures may sport the veneer of beneficent public policy, but they would only make Florida's property tax system more unfair. None is a good deal for the state or the average Floridian.

The kind of duplicity that afflicts many of the amendments is most apparent in Amendment 8. Titled by lawmakers "Religious Freedom," Amendment 8 actually constricts religious freedom by lifting limits on state funding for religious institutions and schools. It would result in Floridians being forced, through their taxes, to support faiths they reject — the very definition of religious compulsion.

Amendment 6, a direct assault on a woman's legal right to choose an abortion, is dressed up to look like palatable limits on public funding of abortion. And Amendment 5, titled "State Courts," is a power grab by the Legislature to wrest greater control over the state judiciary. The amendment's excessively wordy summary will confuse as much as enlighten, particularly when the real fallout of passage would be more politicized courts.

Six of the 11 amendments would shrink public coffers and handicap the ability of the state and local governments to invest in education, public safety, parks and essential services. Amendment 3 would implement a tax-cap scheme that Colorado has already suspended due to its devastating effect. Amendments 2, 9, 10 and 11 represent a cherry-picking approach to property tax breaks, where sentimentally favored groups such as disabled veterans, low-income senior citizens and surviving spouses of those killed in the line of duty, plus businesses, get special deals. And Amendment 4 would further complicate an already grossly unfair property tax system that can find like-situated owners of identical homes or businesses paying far different taxes.

Voters may be tempted to just skip the amendments altogether, but that may be what lawmakers had in mind. Passage requires only 60 percent of the votes cast for each measure, not 60 percent of all voters. Taking the time to vote "no" is essential to defeating them. (Voters in Pinellas County should take care and not confuse the amendments with a school funding measure, which is deserving of voter support.)

By just saying "no" to all 11 amendments, Florida voters will demonstrate they are more moderate and sensible than their legislative leaders. That should come as a surprise to no one outside of the state Capitol.
Re: More on Amendment 4
October 30, 2012 01:46PM
I'm inclined to agree. But the Times doesn't make it easy for me when it substitutes the currently popular leftist euphemism "invest" for "spend."
Given that Amendment 4 is a special gift for the real estate industry (one of the few legal career refuges for sociopaths), it would be easy to vote against that one. But, at the same time, it is good to keep governments starved for revenue.
What to do, what to do ...



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/30/2012 07:17PM by Steve Myers.
Re: More on Amendment 4
November 02, 2012 01:01PM
Steve, good points. I would remind you that this legislature wrote ALL of the amendments and is the same one that passed or proposed:

-taking away rights of citizens to vote on land use amendments
-sued its own voters over redistricting
-incurred huge legal costs defending unconstitutional bills
-converting state parks to golf courses
-established “leadership funds,” a slush fund to funnel money to its own members’ campaigns, and characterized as: “allows the very same people in charge of passing Florida's laws to tote around a gunny sack to collect money from those seeking favorable treatment in those laws.”
-prevented local governments from controlling fertilizers
-politicized the judicial system
-virtually eliminated growth management and provided for taxpayers to pay for developers’ infrastructure (concurrency)
-packed state agencies with businessmen (eg, allowing Swiftmud to approve drawdons from springs and making DEP a joke)
-exempt from permitting requirements impacts to wetlands due to the alteration of topography on agricultural land. (Go drain the swamp, boys)
-essentially killed “Florida Forever”
-extended for seven years approval of all major developments, known as "developments of regional impact." There are special protections to protect phosphate and limerock mining.
- allowed insurers to drop sinkhole coverage
- exempt farmers (read Big Sugar) from having to get water management district permits
-determined that fighting dogs no longer would be automatically classified as dangerous
- Reversed the state's "burden of proof" requirement that potential polluters show that their projects won't contaminate air or water. Replaced it with a requirement that citizens and other challengers provide proof that the project will harm air or water.
-reversed the long-standing “burden of proof” requirement for potential polluters in Florida law. —citizens are now required to provide legal proof that the project will contaminate air or water
-DEP groups working to restore springs will no longer receive department funding
- prohibit the PSC from approving tiered water rates based on consumption
- allow oil and gas drilling on state lands, with state parks NOT exempted

This one didn’t pass: It would have barred a lawmaker from voting on legislation that would "inure to his or her special private gain or loss" or to an employer, relative, business associate or board upon which the official sits.

Neither did this one: a bill that would have instituted a number of strong recommendations from the recent statewide grand jury on public corruption was shot down in the Senate.

Nor this one: stop allowing us to pay for utility plants that will never be built

Finally, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that from 2000 to 2010, Florida led the nation in federal public corruption convictions. In 2009 and again in 2012 we got failing grades in ethics enforcement from independent organizations.

In July, 2012, Integrity Florida released two important reports. In one, “Corruption Risk Report: Financial Disclosure”, it found:

* Eleven legislators worked for lobbying firms during the 2012 session;

* Twelve legislators disclosed a total of 33 potential voting conflicts;

* Four thousand two hundred and eighty-four current Florida public officials and employees had failed to disclose 2012 financial interests;

* Sixty-six current and former Florida officials and employees owed more than $87,000 in fines for late filing of financial interests in past years.

Integrity Florida’s report, “Corruption Risk Report: Florida Ethics Laws,” notes that Florida’s “corruption crisis threatens the state’s reputation, its economy and its ability to attract new jobs and capital.” For example, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that from 2000 to 2010, Florida led the nation in federal public corruption convictions. In 2009 and again in 2012 we got failing grades in ethics enforcement from independent organizations.

Bottom Line: These same guys wrote ALL of those amendments. Realtors love them. Whom do you trust?
Re: More on Amendment 4
November 07, 2012 01:25PM
Most amendments fall flat
Gray Rohrer, The Florida current, 11/06/2012 - 10:08 PM

Florida voters panned eight of the 11 amendments on the ballot Tuesday, with most falling well short of the 60 percent needed to be inserted into the state constitution.

Three amendments giving tax breaks to veterans, first responders and low-income elderly residents, however, broke the 60 percent threshold.

Amendment 4 offered tax breaks to non-homestead residents (snowbirds) and first-time home buyers, and was backed by the Florida Realtors. Local governments and the Florida Association of Counties claimed victory as the amendment failed with only 43 percent of the electorate supporting it.

“The defeat of Amendment 4 is a major win for home rule and Florida's year-round taxpayers. Voters have clearly signaled their support for the principles of home rule and commonsense tax policy that truly puts Florida's residents first,” said Bryan Desloge, Leon County Commissioner and president of the FAC, in a released statement.
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