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Florida Save Our Homes, Amendment 1 (January 2008)

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Florida Amendment One, also known as the "Portability of Save Our Homes" Amendment, was a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on the on the January 29, 2008 election ballot in Florida, where it was approved.[1]

  • Floridians passed the original Save Our Homes Amendment in 1992, which took effect in 1995.[3] That measure put an annual cap of 3 percent on increases in assessed home values for property taxes.[4] However, a loophole in the Save Our Homes Amendment lost the property tax cap for Floridians who move to a new home. This measure closed that loophole.[5]
  • The amendment was retroactively effective to January 1, 2008.[6]

Election results

Florida Question 1 (January 2008)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 2,667,543 64.08%
No1,495,27035.92%

Official results via: Florida Department of State Division of Elections

Text of measure

The ballot read:

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

NO. 1

CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION
ARTICLE VII, SECTIONS 3, 4, AND 6
ARTICLE XII, SECTION 27

(Legislative)

Property Tax Exemptions; Limitations On Property Tax Assessments
This revision proposes changes to the State Constitution relating to property taxation. With respect to homestead property, this revision: (1) increases the homestead exemption except for school district taxes and (2) allows homestead property owners to transfer up to $500,000 of their Save-Our-Homes benefits to their next homestead. With respect to nonhomestead property, this revision (3) provides a $25,000 exemption for tangible personal property and (4) limits assessment increases for specified nonhomestead real property except for school district taxes.
In more detail, this revision:
(1) Increases the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000. This exemption does not apply to school district taxes.
(2) Provides for the transfer of accumulated Save-Our-Homes benefits. Homestead property owners will be able to transfer their Save-Our-Homes benefit to a new homestead within 1 year and not more than 2 years after relinquishing their previous homestead; except, if this revision is approved by the electors in January of 2008 and if the new homestead is established on January 1, 2008, the previous homestead must have been relinquished in 2007. If the new homestead has a higher just value than the previous one, the accumulated benefit can be transferred; if the new homestead has a lower just value, the amount of benefit transferred will be reduced. The transferred benefit may not exceed $500,000. This provision applies to all taxes.
(3) Authorizes an exemption from property taxes of $25,000 of assessed value of tangible personal property. This provision applies to all taxes.
(4) Limits the assessment increases for specified nonhomestead real property to 10 percent each year. Property will be assessed at just value following an improvement, as defined by general law, and may be assessed at just value following a change of ownership or control if provided by general law. This limitation does not apply to school district taxes. This limitation is repealed effective January 1, 2019, unless renewed by a vote of the electors in the general election held in 2018.
Further, this revision:
a. Repeals obsolete language on the homestead exemption when it was less than $25,000 and did not apply uniformly to property taxes levied by all local governments.
b. Provides for homestead exemptions to be repealed if a future constitutional amendment provides for assessment of homesteads "at less than just value" rather than as currently provided "at a specified percentage" of just value.
c. Schedules the changes to take effect upon approval by the electors and operate retroactively to January 1, 2008, if approved in a special election held on January 29, 2008, or to take effect January 1, 2009, if approved in the general election held in November of 2008. The limitation on annual assessment increases for specified real property shall first apply to the 2009 tax roll if this revision is approved in a special election held on January 29, 2008, or shall first apply to the 2010 tax roll if this revision is approved in the general election held in November of 2008.[2]

Support

Save Our Homes Portability, Inc. was the group sponsoring Florida Amendment One.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist believed that this amendment would stop residents from the "locked-in" effect which prevents homeowners or empty-nesters from moving into smaller homes as their needs or lifestyles change.[7]

Florida State House Speaker Marco Rubio also backed the measure, saying that the state legislature had not done enough to cut down on property taxes after Gov. Crist promised during the most recent election campaign that property taxes would "drop like a rock."[8],[9] He is currently promoting the Florida Cut Property Taxes Now (2008) initiative, saying it will bring real relief to Florida.

Opposition

Teachers and unions generally opposed the measure. The League of Women Voters and Florida Tax Watch opposed the first amendment for Save Our Homes on the grounds that it created inequities in how properties were taxed.[10] Florida Tax Watch also believed that the measure was "probably unconstitutional" and would certainly meet litigation on those grounds if the voters approve it.[11]

Ballot title called confusing

While the proposed amendment itself came to 15 pages of text, a 498-word summary is what voters saw when they went to the polls on January 28. Both proponents and opponents are concerned that voters will be unsure about what they are voting on. Dominic Calabro of Florida Tax Watch said:

Since we only vote on the ballot title and summary, it's absolutely essential that it is clear, in layman's language, so you have a comfort level and really understand it because you're changing your basic rights and freedoms under the constitution. We don't think it's very clear.[12]

Media editorial positions

Support

The Fernando Beach News Leader says that while the current property tax system has flaws, the amendment is better than nothing and urges a "yes" vote.[13]

Opposition

The Miami Herald urges a "no" vote, saying that while property tax relief matters, this amendment leaves Florida's "creaky, inefficient and archaic tax system" in place.[14]

Other

The local NBC news took a different take on the recommendation to point out that if it was a simple majority the legislators wouldn't be sweating about their initiative, but instead because of their own recommendation to increase it to a super majority their initiative is likely not to pass.[15]

Lawsuits

Preemptive lawsuit

Three new Florida residents filed a class action lawsuit in Leon County on November 21, 2007 asking a judge to invalidate both the original Florida Save Our Homes property tax cap, and also to invalidate 2008's Florida Amendment One—if it passes—on the grounds that the newer amendment worsens the inequities built into the original property tax cap.[16] [17]

Walter Hellerstein, a professor from the University of Georgia, argued that the portability provision of the proposed amendment discriminates against those who do not currently own homes in Florida—whether because they have yet to own a home or because they currently live outside the state. The tax advantages only belonged to those who sell a house in Florida.

Hellerstein believed that the fact that Amendment One provides benefits to current Florida homeowners, and no one else, could be interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to be an unconstitutional interference with interstate commerce and the right of people to travel between states.[18]

Florida Governor Charlie Crist disagreed with the claims in the class action lawsuit and also with Hellerstein's legal analysis. Crist remarked, "We're changing the constitution. How can it be more constitutional?"[19]

Path to the ballot

The supporters of Florida Amendment One originally sought to place it on the Florida ballot through the initiative and referendum process. They had collected about 15,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, when the Florida state legislature made their efforts irrelevant by voting to place the proposed amendment on the ballot through the legislative referral process.[20]

See also

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External links

References

  1. Florida election results
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Nonpartisan Ballot, January 29, 2008", Monroe County, FL, Supervisor of Elections
  3. FAQ about property taxes
  4. Florida Today: "Will Save Our Homes exemption portability proposal work?," Jan. 13, 2008
  5. Voters Confused By Property Tax Proposal, News4Jax, Jan. 2, 2008
  6. Portability of Save our Homes Cap Ballot Language
  7. Amendment will bring needed relief to taxpayers Guest Opinion: Burt Saunders, Florida Rep of Lee and Collier counties
  8. Rubio gets behind tax reform drive, Tallahassee.com, Dec. 3, 2007
  9. Super-sized savings? Property tax cut may not mean big bucks for everyone, Sun Sentinel, June 17, 2007
  10. Tax amendment proposal would only exacerbate inequities South Florida Sun Sentinel, January 3, 2008
  11. Florida TaxWatch: Amendment One will do more harm than good Jacksonville Business Journal, January 11, 2008
  12. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Confused about property tax amendment? You're not alone," Jan. 23, 2008
  13. Vote Yes on Amendment 1
  14. Florida voters should say No to Amendment One, demand better tax relief Miami Herald, January 20, 2008
  15. Amendment One May Be Lesson For Supporters, NBC news, Jan. 26, 2008
  16. Miami Herald: "Florida newcomers' lawsuit targets Save Our Homes," Jan. 27, 2008
  17. United Press International: "Lawsuit: Fla. tax cap discriminatory," Jan. 27, 2008
  18. Orlando Sentinel: "Save Our Homes portability in Florida poses risks," Jan. 13, 2008
  19. Miami Herald, Jan. 27, 2008
  20. "PORTABILITY OF SAVE OUR HOMES ASSESSMENT CAP 06-03," Florida Department of State, Division of Elections.