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A study of the General Election ballot in everyday language

By PENNY FLETCHER

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — Sample ballots for the Nov. 6 General Election can be studied before making your way to the voting screen but it won’t be easy.

There’s a lot more going on than voting for the President of the United States. State House, Senate and various other offices are also up for grabs.

Two County Commission seats are open – both affecting residents in the coverage area of The Observer News and The Current. The District 4 seat affects much of South County but is intertwined with District 1 (which is not electing a new commissioner this year) in several communities so a map is being provided along with this story.

The District 4 seat is being defended by incumbent Al Higginbotham against challengers (D) Mark Nash and Joy Green, who is not affiliated with any party.

The other Commission seat that is up for grabs is County-wide District 6, currently held by (D) Kevin Beckner who is running against (R) Margaret Iuculano.

Sheriff David Gee is running unopposed and there are many judges on the ballot. The only way to know whether to check “retain” or “do not retain” the judges is to check them out individually by name beforehand.

Several local communities, FishHawk and Rivercrest being the only ones in range of this newspaper’s coverage area, have internal issues to vote on as well.
And then, there are the 11 proposed amendments to the State Constitution.

“It looks like there are 12 amendments on the ballot but there are really only 11,” said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Earl J. Lennard. “There’s no Number 7. That’s because No. 7 was rewritten by a judge’s order and legislative rules say that once an amendment is rewritten, it has to get a new number.”

Unlike many other years when special interest groups have used petition efforts to put amendments on the ballot, all 11 proposed Constitutional Amendments on the 2012 General Election ballot were sponsored by the State House or Senate. The complete amendments and the original bills that introduced them may be viewed at http://election.dos.state.fl.us/initiatives/initiativelist.asp?year=2012&initstatus=ALL&MadeBallot=Y&ElecType=GEN but are summarized in easy English here for readers’ convenience. This story neither endorses nor objects to any amendment.

No. l – This amendment, if passed, would override what’s being called “Obamacare,” the real name of which is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Saying “yes” to this amendment would mean you are in favor of allowing Florida to “say no” to the act and not accept the federal law that is now in place.

No. 2 — This amendment is straightforward. It says if you say “yes” property discounts on homestead exemptions will be given to veterans of combat who were not Florida residents at the time of their service when they entered the military.

No. 3 — If passed, this amendment would not take effect until the 2014-2015 fiscal year. It states that the State Legislature may change the way it determines how it will collect revenues. It would replace the existing way of collection, which is determined by personal income growth, with a new state revenue system that is based on changes in population and the rate of inflation. This amendment says the Legislature “may” submit proposed increases to voters.

No. 4 — This amendment, if passed, would stop increases in taxable value of all homesteaded property and lower the increase percentages on some non-homestead properties when market values decrease. Specific percentages for certain classifications of residents and homebuyers are mentioned in the amendment.

No. 5 — This amendment provides that either the State House or Senate must confirm the appointment of State Supreme Court judges by the Governor. Percentages and specific powers are outlined in this amendment which transfers some powers from the judicial branch of government to the legislative branch.

No. 6 — This amendment is to add stricter measures to the State Constitution about using public funds for abortions or health coverage that includes abortions with exceptions specifically named in the proposed amendment.

No. 7 — Rewritten to become No. 8

No 8 — Titled the “Religious Freedom” amendment, this graph says passage would “delete the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury for any… sect…or sectarian institution.” This means that public money could be used toward a private institution (such as a school or other institution operated by a religious denomination.)

*This amendment has been reworded by a judge’s order.

No. 9 – This proposed amendment grants full property tax relief to spouses of military veterans and first responders (including policemen, firefighters and others specifically named) who are killed in the line of duty if they were county residents as of Jan. 1 the year they were killed. They would pay no property tax as long as they stayed in that home and remained unmarried.

No. 10 — This would provide businesses an exemption from paying tax on tangible personal property with value between $25,000 and $50,000. The two parts to this amendment would allow the state, and also county and local municipalities to also choose to exempt the property from taxation. (The amendment does not say “businesses” but only businesses now pay this tax.)

No. 11 — This would allow the State Legislature to draft a law that allows counties and municipalities to grant additional homestead exemptions to low-income seniors (as defined in the amendment) if they have lived in the home 25 years or more.

No. 12 — If passed, a new council composed of student body presidents would be created and the president of that council would sit on the Board of Governors of the State University System instead of the president of the Florida Student Association who now occupies that seat.

*Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

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