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Cover Story

The Amendments

Our guide to the confusing mess of constitutional amendments appearing on your ballot

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

What it says: Prohibits increases in assessed values of homesteaded properties when market values decrease; reduces limits to annual assessment value increases on non-homesteaded property; offers additional homestead exemption over five years.

What proponents say: The amendment will protect property owners from rising property taxes, help small business owners and renters, spark first-time home-buying and stimulate the economy.

What opponents say: This boon for snowbirds and out-of-state business interests will suffocate already strapped local governments and result in huge cuts for fire and police.

What we say: It's easy to wave a tax break and call it a smart solution when everybody is trying to save a buck. Not so easy is the damage it will do municipalities already hit hard by the property tax maneuvering of 2008's Amendment 1. In Orlando, property taxes make up 28 percent of the city's budget, and Amendment 4 would limit the annual growth of that budget to $4.8 million, or 1.3 percent of the city's budget, according to city staff. What that means, in no uncertain terms, is that the city will have to offset the cuts with increased millage rates or by simply cutting services. You'll end up paying in the end.

Amendment 5
State courts

What it says: A vote for amendment 5 would give the state legislature more power over the judicial process – the Senate would have to approve judicial nominees, the state Speaker of the House would be able to review confidential information pertaining to investigations by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and it would make it easier for the legislature to repeal a court rule.

What proponents say: The Florida legislature – the main proponent of this amendment – says this measure would make the state court systems more "efficient." They point out that in some other states, the legislature has some input in judicial appointments and there's no reason we can't have that here, too.

What opponents say: If efficiency means a heavily politicized judiciary that operates at the pleasure of the legislative branch, they're right. This bill has been called a legislative power-grab and an attempt to undermine judicial independence in Florida.

What we say: The Florida legislature is so partisan, so easily influenced by lobbyists and so disturbingly opaque that the last thing our state needs is to give it any more power over the judicial branch. Do we really want to complicate our current judicial-appointment process by giving the Senate veto power over candidates that are already vetted and selected by a judicial nominating committee and the governor? Too many cooks in the kitchen – ones that absolutely want to flavor the soup to their own tastes. And why should the House have free reign to dig into confidential investigations of judicial behavior, even when judges are not actively being considered for impeachment, if not to drum up ways to kick justices who displease them off the courts? This amendment would also allow the legislature to overturn court rules it doesn't agree with. Why not just hand over all judicial power to state legislatures? That's practically what this amendment proposes.

Amendment 6
Prohibition of public funding of abortions; construction of abortion rights

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