Florida ballot news archive, 2008-2009

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Note: This page includes short news headlines as they happen. If you scroll through the page and read earlier headlines, information pertaining to the events in those sections may have changed significantly since the section was posted.

Secret ballot amendment proposed

On March 11, 2009, a committee of the Florida House of Representatives approved a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution that would guarantee workers in Florida the secret ballot. Four Democrats on the committee voted against the measure, which is sponsored by House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. R-Delray Beach. The proposed amendment is the Florida Secret Ballot Amendment (2010).[1]

Smarter Growth okay for 2010 ballot

A 4-3 majority of the Florida Supreme Court ruled on December 18 that an initiated constitutional amendment proposed for the 2010 ballot in Florida may include two competing citizen initiatives on growth management. The court said the proposed "Smarter Growth" amendment is "not materially misleading."[2][3]

State Supreme Court removes three ballot measures

On Wednesday, September 3, the Florida Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling struck three measures from the November 4, 2008 ballot. The proposed amendments the court took off the ballot had been proposed by the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. They were Amendments 5, 7 and 9. Two of the propositions were designed to help Florida's school voucher program withstand legal challenges.[4]

Judge pulls Amendment 5 off November ballot

A court in Leon County has taken Amendment 5 off the November ballot, with Judge Cooper issuing this statement: "The court finds that the ballot title and summary provided in the proposition for Amendment 5 fail to fairly inform the voter, in a clear and unambiguous language, of the chief purposes of the amendment and the language of the title and summary, as written, is misleading in the foregoing respects." The District Court of Appeals has agreed to pass the issue on without a ruling to the Florida Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on September 8. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is responsible for originally placing the measure on the ballot. "The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is a constitutionally mandated commission that has the unique power to go directly to the ballot without having legislative approval, gubernatorial approval, or signatures," said Nancy Riley, president of the Florida Association of Realtors. "The judges denying this amendment to be put on the ballot is denying the citizens of Florida their constitutional right to have this commission who represents them go directly to them for approval."[5]

Ballot issue seeks to "Reverse One Sumter"

As in 2004, voters are being asked how they want their county commissioners elected. "Reverse One Sumter," a political committee, has gotten enough signatures to place the question on the general-election ballot in November. Voting "yes" on the issue will mean that voters choose only the commissioner in their district, voting "no" will mean that voters can choose all 5 commissioners. County Commissioner Doug Gilpin has voiced his support of the current system. “As a county commissioner, I serve the whole county, not just part of it,” Gilpin said during Tuesday’s regular commission meeting. “I enjoy being accountable to the whole county and work for all the taxpayers. Why in the world would anybody want to return to the bad, old days of higher taxes, poor service and pork-barrel politics?” However John Campbell, Reverse One Sumter spokesman, thinks elections can be improved. Voting on only one commissioner gives those citizens “more ability to deal with that commissioner,” Campbell said. After the initial passage of One Sumter in 2004, elections brought new people to the commission. The property tax rate has gone down annually, Lake Panasoffkee residents witnessed canal dredging activities (which were previously not being done), the county is in the midst of jail and office expansion projects, and Villages residents are starting to see a more efficient and equal return on their taxes. Gilpin says that this is can all be credited to One Sumter. Campbell disagrees. In reference to the dropping tax rate, he says, “It’s dropped because of the growth.”[6]

Crist Announces Support of Amendment 5

Gov. Crist has made his support of Amendment 5 known, expressing his belief to business executives that it will be an economic stimulus. Chuck Bonfiglio, president of the Florida Association of Realtors, agrees, saying it will give money back to home owners and business owners. The Florida Association of Realtors has put at least $1 million into campaigning in favor of Amendment 5. Crist said the measure is a natural progression after Amendment 1, which passed with his support in January. "It will be power to the people again as it comes to reducing property taxes as much as 25 percent," said Crist. "It's not just for homeowners, it's about your businesses and second homes." The Florida Homebuilders Association has yet to take an official position on the amendment, but is expected to in the coming weeks.[7]

Ponce Inlet mulls boat stack petition

The language used on a petition prohibiting new construction of dry boat stacks was approved on first reading by the Ponce Inlet Town Council in late June. The 4-1 vote, with Councilman Jim McCormick opposing, will require a second reading. The petition, circulated by Citizens for Property Rights, emerged after the council sent amendments to the Comprehensive Plan to the state that changed two major elements: Dry boat stacks will not be limited to 5,000 square feet, and dry boat stacks will be allowed in the Riverfront Overlay District, which currently does not allow such storage....[1] (dead link)

Florida Hometown Democracy files suit in federal court

On June 11, Hometown Democracy filed suit in federal court seeking to get their citizen initiative placed on the November 2008 ballot. In a recent press release Hometown Democracy stated "the State’s recent rollback of the citizen petition filing deadline to February 1st violates the U.S. constitution because 1) it serves no legitimate state interest; 2) it differs from the certification deadlines imposed on other methods for amending the Florida constitution; 3) it interferes with Floridians’ rights to associate with others for the advancement of their political beliefs; and 4) it interferes with Floridians rights to cast their votes effectively." The suit also states that the initiative lost tens of thousands of votes due to acts of the state which were unconstitutional, as well as asserts that "the state’s recent adoption of an anti-initiative statute, which gives commercial establishments the right to permit or exclude initiative petitioning as they see fit, is patently unconstitutional." Gary Sinowski, a New York City attorney with a successful history of "ballot access" suits, is lead council for the suit. The initiative (Hometown Democracy), would require voter approval for any change to comprehensive land use plans approved by commission or city.[8]

New poll shows interesting data on top issues

A new Quinnipiac University Poll shows that voters are split on tax issues, like the upcoming measure (Ballot #5) which would replace property tax in place of a sales tax increase. The poll found that if the measure were to pass, 35 percent of voters favored an increase in the sales tax, 34 percent call for the elimination of sales tax exemptions and 21 percent would rather the state simply cut spending. However, only 50 percent of voters support the measure, and it needs 60 percent to pass. The survey also found that 56 percent of voters oppose an amendment aimed at making it easier for the state to give vouchers for religious and private schools (Ballot #7). However, another proposed amendment (Ballot #9) which would require schools to spend at least 65 percent of their budget specifically in the classroom and includes vouchers as well received 63 percent approval. The amendment is being called the "65 percent solution." The poll was done between May 27 and June 1 among 1,625 voters. The margin of error is +/- 2.4 percent.[9] The poll also found that the proposed gay-marriage ban (Ballot #2) is within a few percentage points of the 60 percent majority needed to pass. South Florida is the only region that opposes it, and the poll found that church-goers and those without college degrees are more likely to support the measure. Republican Governor Crist's approval rating remains high at 61 percent, even though 60 percent of the people surveyed stated they were unsatisfied "with the way things are going in Florida."[10]

Court rules against petition signature revocation

The 2007 law allowing voters to revoke their signatures from ballot-initiative petitions was ruled unconstitutional by three Florida appellate court judges. According to a written statement of the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, the law does not ensure ballot integrity for citizens and citizens' groups trying to amend the state constitution. The court further decided that lawmakers should have let voters decide whether or not that provision should be included. The court directed the circuit court in Leon County to reverse its earlier ruling on a complaint filed last year by Florida Hometown Democracy, who are trying to give voters the final say on city and county long-term growth plans. Critics of Hometown Democracy, among them many businesses, say that would greatly hinder Florida's development economy. A business-backed group called Save Our Constitution got over 13,000 Hometown Democracy petitions revoked, however even if they were reinstated, the initiative would still be more than 65,000 petitions short of the February 1 deadline for the 2008 ballot[11]

House sends two tax-cap bills to a doubtful Senate

The Florida House of Representatives voted 79-38 over Democratic opposition to put two tax bills on the November ballot. The first (HJR 7125) would tie the growth in all government revenue to population and inflation, plus an additional 1%. However, Senate President Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, has voiced a need to see what impact the January voter-approved Amendment 1 will have. It is projected to cut taxes by $9.3 billion over 5 years. "We need to let the reforms the people passed Jan. 29 start working," Pruitt said. The second bill being sent to the Florida Senate (HJR 949) would cut taxes by $6 billion by limiting tax bills to 1.35 percent of assessed value. "This bill allows for local people to have the purest form of local control, on whether they want to have their taxes low," said Representative Nick Thompson, R-Fort Myers. Democrats have voiced concern about what this would mean for necessary governmental services and the inability for local governments to make spending decisions. Both measures are likely to fail in the Senate, where there is a general desire not to see any more debate about revenue caps and tax cuts.[12]

Cap on State and Local Taxes and Fees Failed

The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission rejected the proposed initiative for a constitutional amendment that would have put a cap on all government revenue. The Commission needed 17 out of 25 voters to support the amendment in order to pass it, which fell four votes short. The Commission then hustled to get a replacement amendment that would require a two-thirds vote by the governing board to pass taxes and fees, but that failed as well. While supporters said these were necessary to stop runaway government spending, opponents argued that the amendments would hurt the economy. The only chance for a tax-cap on the ballot is now in the hands of the legislature; supporters are optimistic about its chances in the House, but much less so in the Senate.[13]

Super majority ballot approved by judge

Florida Circuit Court judge, Debra Jones Riva, refused to pull the plug on a referendum that would have blocked the supermajority ballot on Nov. 6th. The amendment would require four out of five county commissioners to agree on any proposal to allow increases in "density" or "intensity" to the county's land-use plan. This initiative would make it much more difficult for development in rural areas. The judge ruled that the lawsuit has no basis that ballot question was either "misleading or inaccurate."[14]

Prop 13 likeness pops up in Florida

Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio has announced his backing of an initiative that would slash property taxes. The plan would cut property tax by an average of 26 percent statewide. The plan would restrict taxes to 1.35 percent of the taxable value of any parcel of property and would not change the "Save Our Homes" proposition.[15]

Florida slot machine ballot measure taken to trial

In Florida, a group opposed to gambling has paired up with an animal rights group to bring a case against an initiative approved three years ago by Florida voters. Their claim is that since some of the signatures collected during the petition drive were fraudulent, the measure never should have appeared on the ballot. On September 28 the Florida Supreme Court ruled that it does not have jurisdiction and remanded the case to a trial court to review the facts. The lawsuit seeks to nullify the statewide vote.[16]