2016 Constitutional Amendments That Will Appear on the November 2016 Ballot

Amendment 1:

Title: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice (Serial Number: 15-17)

Official Ballot Summary: 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.

Analysis: With Florida’s population growing by approximately 1,000 every day, many people believe solar energy is an important component of our future energy portfolio. On the other hand, many Floridians would prefer the forward looking policies be done by statute rather than by constitutional amendment. Supporters argue that passage of this amendment is a smart way to fundamentally depoliticize the solar energy debate for decades to come. After all, there are well-funded special interests groups and billionaires with agendas that seek to pass mandates that could dramatically increase electricity costs and limit Florida’s competitiveness. Supporters say a strong argument can be made that Amendment 1 is needed to set up a permanent legislative framework by constitutionalizing consumer protections and fairness for all Floridian for decades to come.

 

Amendment 2:

Title: Use of Marijuana for Debilitating medical Conditions (Serial Number:15-01)

Official Ballot Summary: 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.

Analysis: People and groups opposing Amendment 2 argue it would be an economic setback for Florida because of the broad access, and lax controls it would provide for a drug which contains 10 times the level of potency as existed in the days of Woodstock. The Florida Department of Health estimated that if Amendment 2 passes, in Florida there will be approximately 440,552 users and approximately 2,000 dispensaries, or pot shops as they are known in other states. Opposing groups believe Florida’s focus should be on creating good private-sector jobs for everyone and improving education, not on making pot legal and calling it “medicine.” Supporters of the amendment say marijuana is already providing relief and therapeutic value to residents in 23 states and the District of Columbia where laws are currently in effect. Supporters also argue ill patients should be able to use marijuana without risking arrest and imprisonment. 

 

Amendment 3

Title: Tax Exemption for Totally and Permanently Disabled First Responders

Official Ballot Summary: 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.

Analysis: The Florida Legislature has placed on the General Election ballot an amendment to the Florida Constitution allowing the Legislature to provide ad valorem tax relief to a first responder who is totally permanently disabled as a result of an injury sustained in the line of duty. The amount of tax relief may equal the total amount or a portion of the ad valorem tax otherwise owed on homestead property. A casual connection between a disability and service in the line of duty may not be presumed, but instead must be determined as provided by general law. The term “disability” does not include a chronic condition or chronic disease, unless the injury sustained in the line of duty was the sole cause of the chronic condition or chronic disease.

 

Amendment 5: 

Title: Homestead Tax Exemption for Certain Senior, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination of Just Value.

Official Ballot Summary: 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.

Analysis: The Florida Legislature has placed on the General Election ballot an amendment to the Florida Constitution which makes it okay for those 65 years and older to maintain their homestead tax exemption on their house as long as the value of the house (that they have maintained for 25 years) was less than $250,000 in the tax year that they applied. Currently, taxpayers who receive the exemption are denied the exemption in a later year if the just value of their homestead exceeds $250,000. This amendment, which would be effective January 1, 2017 would allow seniors to keep this tax exemption. They will not lose their exemption if their property value goes up.